French press review 5 November 2015

Text by: William Niba
7 min

President Hollande faces media storm for shelving reform agenda on election eve; And Real Madrid star Karim Benzema spends night in police custody over his role in Valbuena blackmail sex tapes.


The papers are all about President Hollande’s backpeddling after outrage over his tax policies.

In today’s editorial, Le Monde argues that the long-brandished promise to merge income tax and a progressive social security levy was nothing more than a myth. According to the newspaper, rendering the CSG progressive, (the more you earn, the more you pay), faced a problem of constitutionality, meaning that the reform would have been invalidated by the Conseil d’Etat or State Council, had Hollande gone ahead with it.

The publication doesn’t see what else President Hollande could have done, other than retract the “improvisations and tinkering” which make him look like a cursed leader.

More so, Le Monde claims that the Socialist had a time bomb in his hands which was waiting to explode on the eve of regional elections, had they not reinstated the so-called widows’ tax rebate -- the post war measure of docking 50 percent of levies paid by widows.

The rebate cancelled in 2008 by the conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon had been due to come into effect in 2015. Thousands of poor voters who suddenly discovered their new fiscal status were plotting revenge in the ballot box, had the measure not been repealed. Further more Le Monde argued that the late move to reinstate the rebate flattens any political benefits the Socialists would have reaped from the reform.

For Le Figaro one month away from the regional elections, it is flip-flop time for the government, as it back tracks on taxation, welfare benefits, labour code reform and the promise of voting rights for foreigners.

L’Humanité expresses dismay at Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ dumping of President Hollande campaign’s Pledge 50 on voting rights for legal residents. According to the Communist party daily, a vast majority of left-leaning voters and solidaity associations are scandalized by the government’s failure to seize the momentum. L’Humanité recalls, 61 percent of French citizens were in favour of the reform in 2011but the figures fell to 47 in 2014.

“What a big mess”, exclaims La Croix. The Catholic daily accuses governments from both sides of the political divide of complicating the management of France’s public finances with improvised decisions, either to please capricious groups or to patch up problems instead of solving them.

The Catholic newspaper says it will require stringent management of public spending to render the fiscal system simpler and readable by citizens. And from La Croix’s point of view, fiscal reform ought to be launched at the beginning of presidential terms, not on the eve of elections, to appease angry voters.

The detention of Real Madrid football star Karim Benzema on Wednesday in connection with the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal is causing shock waves in today’s papers.

Le Parisien reports that Benzema spent the night at the police station in Versailles, near Paris, as investigators try to determine the extent of his involvement in attempts over several months to extort money from Valbuena after the sex tape found its way into the hands of suspected blackmailers.

Libération reports that Benzema mentioned the intimate video to Valbuena when the French team met for training near Paris in early October, ahead of matches against Armenia and Denmark.

The sports daily L’Equipe found out that the Madrid star striker landed himself in the storm when he told Valbuena that he learned of the video from a friend of his brother in Lyon who had been contacted by the suspected blackmailers with a view of involving Benzema in their scheme.

Police investigators are trying to determine whether Benzema was just teasing Valbuena when he mentioned the tape, or trying to make him pay the group of suspected blackmailers, charged and put in detention last month.

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