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France

French weekly magazines review 29 June 2014

media

The Bygmalion inflated bills scandal rocking the opposition UMP party is turning into a goldmine for the weeklies.

The satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné has revealed details of the sophisticated system put in place by ex-UMP chief Jean-François Copé and his friends to fund the 2012 reelection campaign of former president Nicolas Sarkozy and to siphon seven million euros off from the party’s coffers.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

“Everything was overcharged,” says Le Canard, some events costing 700 times above standard prices, party chieftains in strategic institutions chipping in to swell the order books of the small PR events company created in 2008.

Accounts obtained by the weekly show that the UMP paid the firm 473,000 euros to organise its workshop for MPs in 2010, 197,000 euros more just to let Bygmalion monitor its e-reputation and 232,000 euros on the creation of its digital portal.

The documents also show that Bygmalion was paid 48,000 euros for updating Jean-François Copé’s personal website and that it received payments of up to 172,000 euros from Christian Jacob, the chief whip of the UMP parliamentary group for the creation of a Dailymotion link to his regular letter to the party’s lawmakers.

UMP lawmakers infuriated by the extent of the scandal have been calling for the resignation of the Jérôme Lavrilleux, Bygmalion’s co-director recently elected on the party’s ticket to the European parliament. Le Canard says they will have to swallow some of their anger after Copé’s warning that Lavrilleux is an unexploded bomb that needs to be handled with extreme caution.

Right-wing Le Point is naturally preoccupied by the fracas taking place within the UMP and the damage to Sarkozy’s plans to stage a political comeback. The former president is already feeling the pinch as his poll ratings have declined by six percentage points, according to the latest Ipsos survey.

Le Point argues that, while his popularity remains intact among grassroots conservative voters, the knives are out for him in the UMP, the likes of ex-premier Francois Fillon and former party chief Xavier Bertrand determined to capitalise on the Bygmalion affair to push him out of the 2017 presidential race.

Le Nouvel Observateur is concerned by the nuisance capacity of left-wing rebels in parliament opposed to the social-democratic turn of President François Hollande. It puts their numbers around 100, pointing out that they range from mainstream Socialists to Greens, Communists and hardline class warriors from the Left Front.

Le Nouvel Observateur identifies ex-Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry as one of the politicians pulling the strings. It observes that, despite a rebuke from Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the rebels are threatening to abstain or to vote against the Responsibility Pact, the government’s emblematic bid to reverse economic stagnation and spiralling unemployment.

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Left-wing Marianne, obviously devastated by the gloomy trend of government business, compares the “fraternal twins” of the European left - Valls and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

While Renzi is galloping around launching new projects, Valls faces a wall of rebels and finding it hard to wrap up a single reform, it finds.

Talking of reform, right-wing Le Figaro Magazine wonders if Justice Minister Christiane Taubira lives in the same world as other French citizens.

Taubira is the sponsor of the new prison reform bill, which aims to end overcrowding in prisons. It proposes probationary sentences for small crimes until now punishable by imprisonment.

That’s tantamount to complacency, says Le Figaro Magazine, arguing that, if the government can raise 1.7 billion euros to buy shares in the industrial giant Alstom just for the sake of satisfying the caprices of Finance Minister Arnaud Montebourg, it shouldn’t have any difficulty finding money to construct the 20,000 cells needed to put criminals under lock and key.

Here is some advice from Le Figaro Magazine for French citizens preparing to go on holidays: “Make sure you install an alarm before you leave.”
 

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