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French press review 8 April 2013

What is the difference between a headline story and a blatant lie?

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If that sounds like a stupid question, take a look at today's main story in left-leaning Libération.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

The headline reads "President paralysed by possible Fabius affair". Laurent Fabius is the French Foreign Affairs Minister. Since last Thursday, a rumour has been circulating to the effect that Mediapart, the news website that exposed the Cahuzac affair, might be in possession of proof that Fabius might have one or more bank accounts in Switzerland. If you think that's a mighty lot of "mights" for one sentence, you're right. Even Mediapart are stressing that they have no real information and are simply investigating a possibility.

Given the current level of public mistrust and the general air of panic in government circles, that investigation of a mere possibility has obliged Laurent Fabius to deny ever having had a bank account in any tax haven.

Speaking of former Budget Minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, a Swiss news television station claims that the disgraced French politician tried, in 2009, to deposit 15 million euros in a Geneva account. Worse, a daily paper in Zurich says Cahuzac in 2009 produced a false French tax certificate as part of his effort to transfer money from Switzerland to Singapore.

That claim is currently being investigated by the judge raking over the ashes of the Cahuzac fortune.

Says Libé, that investigation is likely to reveal the names of other French public figures who have, or had, perfectly legal bank accounts in Switzerland, for the perfectly illegal purpose of tax evasion.

The left-leaning paper's main headline reads "The nightmare continues". That, at least, is not based on a rumour.

Communist L'Humanité wonders if it isn't time to close the door on the Fifth Republic, in other words, bring the current constitution to an end and replace it with a new, more social democratic approach to the way the government controls big business, notably the banks.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon's far left says the Cahuzac affair is not just about individual dishonesty but about a corrupt system. It is time for change.

Popular Le Parisian says it may, indeed, be time for a change, but they mean a simple reshuffling of the cabinet. The problem is that a reorganisation will have to wait until the storm of financial scandal finally blows itself out. President Hollande can not afford to lose another senior minister to financial malpractice. So he'll probably wait.

French politics no stranger to scandals

Right wing Le Figaro says it won't make any difference what the president does, because 77 per cent of French voters are convinced that politicians are corrupt anyway. The same poll shows one third of Figaro's sample in favour of dissolving the current government, and 28 per cent keen to see a redistribution of ministerial posts.

Catholic La Croix looks at the German-inspired policy of budgetary rigour, currently driving Finance Ministers and tax payers mad all over the eurozone.

And business daily Les Echos tries to estimate the economic impact of a new bird flu epidemic. Six people have already died in China as a result of H7N9 infection. The effect on the global economy, especially the air transport sector, could be disastrous.

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