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French press review 20 March 2014

Libération, L'Humanité and Aujourd'hui en France all give top billing to the on-going Sarkozy phone saga.

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You will know by now, and probably couldn't care less, that the former president of the French Republic is suspected having corrupted a judge in the nation's highest court to influence a decision in a case involving the very same Nicolas Sarkozy.

Intercepted phone conversations between the former president and his legal advisor seem to indicate that they planned to promote a judge in return for crucial, and confidential, information. The suspicion that the president and official guardian of the French legal system, as he was at the time of the alleged events, might have tried to subvert that system is a serious one.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

CommunistL'Humanité is indignant: "The Republic Outraged" is their no-nonsense headline to a story claiming the establishment under Sarkozy of a clandestine operation involving top judges, with the simple aim of getting the president off the legal hook. The communist daily wants to see the former president flayed alive, and the judicial system overhauled.

Tabloid Aujourd'hui en France says there are suspicions all along the line, reporting the formal denial by Sarkozy's lawyer of the interpretation which has been put on elements of the recorded conversations.

Libération says the whole thing smacks of pulp fiction, with the use of false names, supposedly secret phone accounts, fake conversations on lines known to be bugged all suggest the lowest form of airport novel, if it wasn't for the seriousness of the individual case and what it suggests about the independence of French judges.

Interestingly, conservative paper Le Figaro does not consider the story to be of prime importance. They simply note the denial of corruption allegations by the Sarkozy camp, and procede to bash the current government for its failure to rein-in spiralling expenditure on part-time workers in the entertainment industry.

Le Monde has been looking at Figaro's handling of politically sensitive subjects over the past couple of years, accepting that it's not easy for a right wing paper to handle right wing subjects after the excrement has hit the ventilation equipment.

It is known, for example, that Patrick Buisson, former Sarkozy advisor now famous for his clandestine recordings of meeting of the presidential inner circle, at least once suggested an angle to the then editor of Le Figaro.

The date was February 27, 2011, and Sarkozy was reshuffling his cabinet while much of the Arab world was reshuffling everything else. Buisson felt that the re-organisation of the cabinet would look less like an intestinal disorder if it was dressed in geopolitical trappings. The next morning, Figaro's main headline read "Government reorganised in depth: Sarkozy's strategy in the face of Arab challenge."

Le Figaro has since changed editor and has affirmed that it is not a UMP publication. The paper's owner, Serge Dassault, a UMP senator suspected of vote buying, is a different case. One journalist volunteered to cover Dassault's legal problems for Dassault's paper. The best that can be said of him is that he doesn't write much, nor very often. You can't, I suppose, be blamed for not biting the hand that feeds you.

Le Figaro is now trying to be less partisan and more ideological. But for detail analysis of corruption allegations implicating UMP presidents and senators, you'd be well advised to look elsewhere. 

If you live in Saudi Arabia, and are currently debating which name to give your next child, be warned: the Saudi monarchy has just banned 51 names on the grounds that they infringe religious rules, social traditions or cultural decency.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Thus, according to Le Monde, there'll be no more Nabis, or Emirs, or Malikas, because they are all suggestive of noble blood and are thus reserved for children of the royal household. "Malika," for example, means "princess".

Linda and Sandi go down the tubes because they're western and degenerate, if you'll pardon the tautology.

Benjamin sounds too jewish; Arm and Alas sound too English; Basils are simply banned.

There'll be no more Abduls because "abdul" means "slave" and the Saudis already have plenty of filipino maids.

Libération points out that many of the forbidden names are common in the chi'ite community. The saudi royals are sunnites.

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