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French press review 2 August 2013

The political bombshell of the sentencing of ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to five months in prison for tax fraud attracts reactions from today’s French dailies. There's comment on Zimbabwe's election. And police swoop on French holiday destinations. 

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Les Echos explains that the confirmation of the verdict by an appeals court also bars the leader of the right-wing Forza Italia party from holding any elective office for five years.

For the financial newspaper, the verdict jolts the country's political establishment and jeopardises the power-sharing government formed by a left-wing grouping and Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition.

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Cavaliere bites the dust,” crows Libération as it looks at Berlusconi’s 20-year career, which has been dogged by legal woes and “bunga bunga” sex scandals.

The left-leaning newspaper explains that the case against Berlusconi revolved around film distribution rights purchased by his business empire, Mediaset, which was the starting point of his foray into politics in the early 1990s.

Libé brands the 76-year-old former premier a populist demagogue, observing that he also faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted in other cases of having sex with an underage prostitute, abusing his prime ministerial powers and leaking a police wiretap to damage a political rival.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Libération thinks he will probably be spared the humiliation of serving his five-month term in a penitentiary, due to overcrowding in Italy’s prisons. Judges are said to be looking to place him under house arrest and compelling him to carry out some community work.

Le Figaro also examines the “downfall of the Cavaliere”, noting that the confirmation of his jail term spells journey’s end for the political career of the billionaire tycoon.

The right-wing newspaper, however, argues that it will be hard to pursue Italy’s political history without the movement of the man nicknamed the “alligator”.

Le Figaro explains that Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party remains one of the pillars the power-sharing government, in which it holds five portfolios. The future of the coalition government, according to the paper, now hinges on what instructions Berlusconi gives in the coming days. But it believes Berlusconi’s political demise provides Italy with a great opportunity to turn the political page.

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La Croix looks at the political confrontation taking place in Zimbabwe, as the country awaits the results of Wednesday’s elections with President Mugabe’s supporters claiming victory while the opposition denounces the process as a sham.

La Croix says the veteran independence leader, who is notorious for his anti-Western and anti-white rhetoric, is still considered a hero by rural and aged voters.

Le Parisien highlights a stunning discovery made by quality control agents and fraud repression squads during a spectacular sweep of holiday resorts across France.

According to the paper, over 1,500 crimes have been discovered since the start of the summer - restaurants serving food past its sell-by date, butchers selling rotten meat, shops dealing in expired products and unregistered businesses.

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