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French Press Review 25 July 2018

Across the French newspapers the Benalla affair rumbles on. I suspect we'll soon be calling it Benalla-gate. It has all the ingredients.


As ever, the aftermath, the political fallout, is what really matters. Who knew what? When did they know it? What did they do about it? As ever, suspicions of a cover-up are more scandalous and damaging than the initial offence.

That, in case you missed it, was the beating of May Day protesters by Alexandre Benalla, a bodyguard of French President Emmanuel Macron, who's described as a member of Macron’s inner circle.

The Élysée Palace, which knew about Benalla’s assault the following day, kept it quiet for more than two months.

Benalla has since been indicted with “gang violence” and impersonating a police officer after he attacked demonstrators at a protest at which he was supposed to be an observer.

Centrist paper Le Monde, which first broke the story, believes that pressure is building on the Élysée.

Which perhaps explains why President Macron has finally broken his silence.

The paper reports his telling elected representatives of his party, "What happened on May 1st is serious, serious. If they are looking for who is responsible, the only one responsible is me and me alone. I trusted Alexandre Benalla."

The Catholic daily La Croix says the Interior Minister Gérard Collomb and the prefect of police Michel Delpuech pin the blame on Patrick Strzoda, Secretary General of the Élysée and Macron's Chief of Staff.

Whatever the outcome of the blame game, Macron's mea culpa looks unlikely to put a lid on the scandal.

Left-leaning Libération reports that centre-right MPs of the Republicans party intend to file a motion of censure against Macron's government in the National Assembly.

The paper explains that to be tabled a motion of censure must be signed by 58 deputies. The LR group has 103 so does not need support from others.

Which is not to say it isn't there. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed party, has made a similar proposal.

Communist daily L'Humanité observes that the call from opposition MPs for a parliamentary commission of enquiry into the Benalla affair demonstrates the need for what it calls "an Assembly with real powers."

Right-wing Le Figaro is relishing the embarrassment suffered by Macron and his team and has yards of coverage, offering a chronology of what it calls "the crisis that has shaken the majority", that's to say Macron's Republic on the Move party.

Indeed, Le Figaro has already dubbed the affair - Benalla-gate.

Amid the political hiatus, the paper is worried that it will damage the police; " hit hard", it says, "by the shock wave of this state scandal."

Lest we forget, when he beat the protesters, the presidential bodyguard was wearing a police helmet and armband and none of the genuine officers at the demo tried to stop him.

The paper quotes Philippe Capon, the secretary general of Unsa, the federation of police trades unions, who is indignant.

"Alexandre Benalla, who is not a cop, has discredited our entire profession. We are very angry at his line of defence claiming that he would have come, like a superhero, to protect the CRS." The CRS are the riot police.

"This case," he tells the paper, "testifies to the dysfunctions of the management of the demonstrations in the capital."

Some are seeking to dismiss what happened as a "Parisian microcosm" and "cronyism".

Which might make some officers feel better - but won't limit what we can call the collateral damage.

The capital’s local paper Le Parisien considers what it calls "the seven questions at the heart of the Benalla affair."

They are the questions I cited earlier.  Who knew what? When did they know it? What did they do about it?

French newspapers of all political leanings are still demanding and digging for what they consider satisfactory answers.


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