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Fillon fighting on
Fillon fighting on

-Analysis-

PARIS — Political junkies everywhere are getting used to the rush of watching election campaigns defy the laws of physics. Just a few weeks ago, the path looked all clear for François Fillon to become the next French President in the vote later this spring. By yesterday, the former center-right Prime Minister looked to be barely hanging on to his candidacy, even seeming to confirm that his chances had been killed by the "Penelopegate" scandal, calling the deepening judicial probe into the hiring of his wife, "a political assassination."

But Fillon is not dead yet. And the victories of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump should teach us all the imperative of stretching our imagination. Though considered a mostly staid and conservative figure through his career, Fillon seems to thrive in taking on the role of victim of prosecutors and the press. A similar strategy helped him win the center-right party's primary election in November, gaining momentum after accusing the media of trying to decide the outcome for the voters by emphasizing that it was a two-man race between a pair of other candidates. His underdog message resonated with a significant part of the electorate.

In France, as in other Western countries, there's growing hostility toward the media. A recent study on the French public's trust towards the country's institutions showed that only 24% trust the media and journalists. Also noteworthy is the level of trust towards the justice system: just 44%.

Though centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron has been rising in the polls, the original "pre-Penelopegate" scenario could still come to pass in the two-round election — but with a twist. The failure of the outgoing center-left government and general rightward shift of the electorate may still mean that Fillon and nationalist right-wing leader Marine Le Pen are the two survivors of the first round of voting. Before the drama of his legal troubles, Fillon would have been considered the favored establishment choice in the runoff, with Le Pen using her own longstanding battles with the media and magistrates as the firebrand outsider. Now a Fillon-Le Pen showdown would be a contest of two candidates running hard against the establishment. Defying the laws of physics indeed.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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