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French press review 10 November 2014

There's a storm brewing in the goldfish bowl of French politics, and it's making splashes all over this morning's front pages.


Le Monde sets the tone with a headline so long and detailed, there's not much left to say in the story. And no room for doubt. "Fillon asked the Elysée to speed up investigations against Sarkozy," says the centrist paper.

Right-wing Le Figaro says it's a political earthquake, and the extreme right Front National will be the only real winners when the dust settles.

Left-leaning Libération says the affair is a game, but a deadly serious one, and that it further tarnishes the tattered image of politics in France.

At the centre of the cyclone is the Sarkozy-era Prime Minister, François Fillon, who stands accused of asking one of his friends in the current presidential team to step up the judicial pressure on Nicolas Sarkozy, in order to hinder the former president's return to politics.

The facts. On 24 June last, Fillon had lunch with President Hollande's right-hand man, Jean-Pierre Jouyet. They're old friends, in the political sense, Jouyet having been part of the Fillon government in 2007, 2008. That's right, a former right-wing cabinet member is now the top man in the team around a socialist president. Clearly, they don't read CVs too carefully when dishing out the top jobs!

Background reading: Previous French scandals

At the famous lunch, according to Jouyet, Fillon was harshly critical of Sarkozy's initiative in getting the UMP to organise a collection to pay his fines, penalties imposed because Sarko had spent too much trying to get himself re-elected in 2012. Talking about the lack of a rapid judicial reaction to the alleged fudging of Sarkozy's campaign accounts, Fillon allegedly said "Hit him quickly, because if you don't hit him quickly, he'll be back."

Fillon has already made it clear that he wants to be the next French president.

Last night he denied the whole ball of wax, saying his ex-mate Jean-Pierre was a liar and that he, François, had never made any attempt to influence the course of justice. Speaking of which, he's going to sue. And he suspects that this state scandal is to be explained either as journalistic manipulation or a dastardly plot by the Hollande presidency. He wobbled a bit on telly last night as he said he wasn't even slightly destabilised by the affair. Not even slightly, wobble, wobble, wobble.

It might just be a coincidence, but exactly one week after that famous lunch, two separate investigations were launched into the way in which Nicolas Sarkozy financed his 2012 campaign.

Further storms are forecast for the goldfish bowl.

CatholicLa Croix devotes its front page to the tension between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, suggesting that we could be on the brink of a third Palestinian uprising.

Even if the fire has gone out of last summer's Gaza confrontation, the two sides remain brittle. Recent attacks against Jewish civilians, followed by the killing of "suspects" by the Israeli army, against a background of Jewish colonisation of increasing areas of neutral or Palestinian land, have further radicalised both sides. The city sacred to three religions seems a long way from any possible peace.

On inside pages, La Croix looks at a solar energy project which is currently under construction near the French city of Bordeaux. Far from being a costly, inefficient Green dream, this site, the largest in Europe, is going to produce enough electricity for a quarter of a million people, and at a price significantly cheaper than the next generation of nuclear reactors, currently being built in England.

By orienting most panels due south, but with east- and west-facing ones in the spaces between, the Bordeaux project will produce between two and three times more power than with exclusively south-facing captors.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

The only bad news is that the solar panels being installed in Bordeaux are made in China, not because they are better or cheaper, but because no French manufacturer could provide the necessary number in the time required.

As they say, every silver lining has its cloud.

Daniel Schneidermann's media review in Libération looks at the hilarious plight of an M6 television news producer, recently sent out to do a report of the false clowns who or which were terorrising France in the approach to Halloween.

By dint of an appeal launched on social media, he found two youngsters prepared to talk about their careers as false clowns. When the kids show up, disaster, they don't have their masks. No worries. Our intrepid producer sends an assistant of to the shop to buy the nexessary disguise.

Duly turned into real false clowns, the two kids are told to hide in a nearby clump of bushes, ready to terrify passers-by and have the whole job filmed by M6. An then the police arrive and arrest everybody, false clowns, real cameraman, dodgy producer. He explained that, since he couldn't find real false clowns, he decided to create false false clowns. If the police hadn't shown up, none of us would have been the wiser.

And Schneidermann extends his critisicm to the way last week's presidential question-time was organised on TF1. The ordinary French farmer, jobless, boss and child minder were indeed what it says on the label. But they still had a predetermined role to play in the scenario which was co-produced by the Elysée and TF1.

Everything is organised to prevent anyone being surprised by anything as banal as "reality," says Schneidermann, turning television into a terrifying machine which works by transforming the world into a collection of man-made objects.

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