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French press review 2 February 2012

More election news on the front pages of the French press with rival candidates, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy dominating the headlines.

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Communist L'Humanité is happy to report that, according to their latest opinion poll, 63 per cent of the French are against the social sales tax proposed by President Sarkozy. Those questioned complain that the idea of shifting some of the cost of labour from the employer to the consumer is unfair and will further reduce people's purchasing power by increasing prices.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

Does anybody remember Eric Woerth? He used to be the French Budget Minister and, before that, he was Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign bagman for the 2007 presidential campaign. Now, he's been called before the judges to answer questions about alleged contributions made by the L'Oréal cosmetics billiionaire, Lilliane Bettancourt, to the campaign cash reserves.

The problem is not so much whether 150,000 euros ever actually changed hands, or whether poor old Madame Bettancourt knew who was doing what with her money (she has since lost the plot completely and has had her affairs put under court control). The crucial question is how the publicity surrounding the Woerth case and the 2007 Sarkozy campaign is going to affect the 2012 presidential race.

The editorial in left-leaning Libération says it's very bad news for Sarkozy, and bad news for French democracy. The president is already struggling to deal with the disastrous economic effects of the global crisis, he is enormously unpopular, and may now have the dark shadow of justice fall across his drive for re-election. The combined effect, according to Libé, will be to drive voters to the extremes, notably boosting the score of far-right National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Socialist contender François Hollande has his own troubles. He was the victim of 'flour-power' while addressing a meeting on the housing crisis yesterday in Paris. A woman from Lille, who has a history of spectacular intrusions, dumped a bag of flour on poor Frank before she could be restrained by the security detail. Popular Aujourd'hui en France wonders just how well protected the socialist candidate actually is.

Frank the Socialist is under attack on the front page of Le Figaro as well. The right-wing paper has been putting Hollande's tax proposals through the analytical mill and, surprise, surprise, they don't like them one little bit. No one will escape, says Figaro. Rich people will pay more, for sure, but so will small and medium businesses. There will also be less money available to finance business expansion. Le Figaro says that, under the socialist proposals, both capital and labour will be penalised.

Catholic La Croix looks to Germany in the wake of President Sarkozy's praise of the German social model. The catholic daily finds a sharp contrast between economic success and the price paid by the poor. Germany has no minimum wage agreement and a growing number of people with jobs but without employment contracts.

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