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French Press Review 27 July 2018

Benallagate continues to tumble through French politics like a tsunami. There's other news. But the beefy former presidential bodyguard manages to elbow his way into some of those as well. We journos call summer "the Silly Season" because of a shortage of hard news. Not this summer. 


There's no escaping Benallagate in the French papers. As you may have heard on Paris Live, the centrist paper le Monde - which broke the story - features an exclusive interview with the man himself - sacked presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla.

That said - there is other news.

Le Monde runs a story headlined: "The debates on the asylum-immigration bill have resumed in calm."

Although - in a sub-head - the paper adds: "Despite an eventful week, punctuated by the Benalla affair, debates resumed in the Assembly."

Among other things, the controversial bill aims to reduce the deadline for lodging asylum applications after entry into France from 120 to 90 days.

The measure also reduces from 11 months to 6 months the period of investigation of the application - including any appeal.

A related story which goes some way to explain and justify the changes is entitled "Overwhelmed by the flow of asylum seekers."

The story quotes Interior Minister Gérard Collomb as saying: "If we remain unresponsive, we would have to welcome into France a few hundred thousand people every year".

Left-leaning Libération also covers the story. But it also can't resist the lure of Benallagate.

Its headline: "In the Assembly, the return of the asylum bill heckled by the Benalla affair."

On Wednesday afternoon, it reminds us, the Republic on the Move, the ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron, tried to diminish the parliamentary enquiry into the Benalla case, limiting the number hearings to the bare minimum.

According to Libé, Thursday's session was anything but calm, with savage insults from left-wing opponents of the bill directed mostly at Monsieur Collomb, who is already in their cross-hairs in connection with the Benalla affair.

Be that as it may. More than a few MPs left early, Libé reports. "The debate continued amid a handful of deputies on the verge of napping," it noted wryly.

Right-wing Le Figaro also declines to give us a rest from Benallagate, revisiting the proposed motion of no confidence in the government threatened by opposition parties, calling it a "symbolic way to control the government."

"This measure theoretically allows the government to be overthrown," the paper tells us. Adding that to "overthrow the government through this procedure is indeed exceptional."

Nonetheless, it allows MPs to demand explanations from the state on past actions, the paper says.

The real interest of this procedure lies, especially in the case of the Benalla case, in the debate it will trigger, the paper believes.

Le Figaro's sources tell it the official filing of the motion is expected in the coming days. The debate following the no-confidence motion will be held 48 hours later.

Evidently, the procedure could hinder passage of the asylum and immigration bill.

Communist daily L'Humanité resists the temptation to make Benallagate its front page lede. That goes to Sunday's presidential election in Mali.

Inside the paper they give Benalla two pages. They too are worried about the effectiveness of the commission of enquiry, saying bluntly that the "Macronites are scuppering the commission."

By deciding by themselves who will sit on the commission, MPs of Macron's ruling party have alienated opposition parties who've suspended their involvement, the paper says.

The Catholic daily La Croix also gives pride of place to the election in Mali, saying voters there will chose a future president who must be able to lead the country out of chaos.

Benalla pops up like a bad penny on page seven where the paper says the affair throws doubt on proposed constitutional reforms.

It's extraordinary how one man's beating up May Day demonstrators in Paris in May is tumbling through French political life like a tsunami.

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