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French weekly magazines review

Can Sarkozy beat Hollande in the presidential election? Are both leading candidates liars? Does Sarkozy see crazed Islamists everywhere? Can the shrinks explain the way politicians behave? And have police held up their investigation into the L'Oréal scandal until the voting's over?

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With just two weeks to go to the 22 April first round of the French presidential election, L’Express takes up the changing dynamics of the race with President Nicolas Sarkozy pulling ahead of his Socialist challenger François Hollande.

The figures are close: 28.5 per cent for President Nicolas Sarkozy and 27 per cent for Hollande. That’s according to the latest Ifop poll for the glamour magazine Paris Match, Sarkozy capitalising on his handling of the Merah affair.

L’Express is wondering if Hollande isn’t about losing the election, in the wake of the reemergence of a combative Sarkozy and the strong polls showing of Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The right-wing magazine believes the race is now wide open, basing its assumptions on desperate attempts by the Hollande’s campaign to contain growing worries about his strategy.

Marianne believes Hollande’s problem could be traced to the fact that he is simply too tepid a candidate. The magazine holds that the Socialist campaign lacks dynamism and strong perspectives. Some of Hollande’s aides worry about lyrical injections in his speeches which do not reflect the man’s character.

Marianne carried out an assessment of Hollande’s stewardship at the helm of his home region Corrèze, noting his outstanding achievement in turning around the debt-ridden economy. The magazine underlines that dialogue and compromise were the recipe of his success, and that offers clues about the kind of president he would be if elected.

Le Nouvel Observateur has been testing the election manifestos of the candidates.

“It's Pinocchio time,” says the left-leaning weekly, the noses of the candidates getting longer as voting day comes closer. The alleged misrepresentations concern Sarkozy’s record.

Le Nouvel Observateur accuses the president himself of playing a role in the spin, when he goes on air stating that consumer power grew by 1.4 per cent every year during his mandate and when he claims that new unemployment figures grew only by 400,000 during his tenure.

The weekly also notes a culture of exaggeration in the Socialist camp as well. Party leader Martine Aubry attributing three-quarters of the deficit to Sarkozy’s policies and Hollande tripling the amount of tax breaks to the wealthy. Le Nouvel Obs regrets the fibs and counter-fibs, which it says make it hard to figure out who is telling the truth.

Le Point invites a group of leading French psychologists to help decipher the characters of the candidates. The experts tell the right-wing magazine that the election strategies of the 10 candidates reflect their temperaments. Traumas incurred by some of the candidates during childhood have led to resilience and sharpened their craving for power, says one of the psychologists.

Another states that a love of combat generates courage which becomes a factor of resilience. One more finding is that “tics and involuntary gestures” by some candidates very often betray their thoughts.

Sarkozy comes in for some ridicule from Le Canard Enchaîné, which accuses him of becoming the producer of an anti-terrorism show. The satirical weekly reports that the crackdown on suspected Islamists was directed from the Elysée presidential palace. The tabloid claims that the candidate Sarkozy sees Islamist terrorists everywhere and deems it urgent to neutralise them under the glare of television cameras.

Marianne argues in an editorial entitled “Sarkozy’s security fiasco” that French police are, like their president, playing to the cameras instead of maintaining law and order.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

“Scandalising republic” is the cover story of this week’s Marianne. The issue is produced in collaboration with the online investigative newspaper Mediapart. It contains previously unreleased documents and new testimonies on several scandals including the Bettencourt affair which Marianne claims is “threatening” the president.

It’s about the alleged illegal financing of Sarkozy's 2007 campaign by L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The weekly reports that the investigating judge has discovered a sophisticated system of financial compensation put in place between France and Switzerland probably to facilitate the operation. Marianne says the judge is hoping to extract crucial information from Bettencourt asset manager Patrice de Maistre, currently under extended judicial custody.

Le Canard Enchaîné also lands a bombshell with the revelation that the financial investigations brigade has decided to suspend all related investigations until after the elections, reportedly without consulting the judge.

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