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More bad news for Hollande as close ally resigns

media French President Francois Hollande (L) and Junior Minister for Veterans Kader Arif (R) attend a ceremony to commemorate the end of the World War One, in Oyonnax, November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Pratta/Files

France's minister for veteran affairs, Kader Arif, resigned on Friday over allegations of favouritism, spelling a fresh blow for President François Hollande. Arif is the latest member of the Socialist government to go, which has seen a culling of ministers because of tax and fraud scandals.

The list keeps getting longer. The number of ministers in Hollande's government forced to resign or either sacked before they could do so, has gone up to three.

But the latest victim - Kader Arif - is perhaps the most painful departure for President Hollande, as the two men were close allies.

The junior minister stepped down on Friday after he was accused in a preliminary investigation of favouring relatives in the award of public contracts.

In reality, Arif had no other choice. After his offices were raided earlier this month by France's anti-corruption watchdog- the contents of which were revealed by news investigation website Mediapart- he chose to vacate his post "out of respect" to Hollande.

Arif was vice president of the urban community of Toulouse from 2008 to 2012 and an influential figure of the Socialist Party in the region.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

In September, junior trade minister Thomas Thevenoud was forced to resign just nine days after his appointment in a cabinet reshuffle, after it emerged he had not paid income taxes for three years.

That resignation had uncomfortable echoes of the so-called Cahuzac affair, when Hollande's budget minister Jerome Cahuzac was sacked for stashing cash in Swiss bank accounts.

The incessant scandals have undermined Hollande's 2012 campaign pledge to run an "exemplary Republic." Far right leader Marine Le Pen on Saturday declared, there is a "need to reflect on the human quality, ethics, of those in power."

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