France: Socialists as scandal-ridden as predecessors

Cahuzac, Lagarde and other dubious affairs overshadow Hollande

04 April, 12:25

(ANSAmed) - PARIS, APRIL 4 - After less than a year in power, the Socialist presidency of Francois Hollande, which was hailed as an antidote to the scandal-ridden right-wing administrations that preceded it, is itself tarnished by allegations of wrongdoing. The French who welcomed Hollande and his ministers - who rode bikes instead of government cars to work - are disappointed once more, writes Le Monde newspaper.

''How can citizens avoid feeling disgusted and indignant upon discovering that the state treasurer coldly spared himself the discipline and the sacrifices he called on others to make?'' Le Monde editorialized yesterday on the alleged complicity between Economics Minister Pierre Moscovici and Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac, who had declared war on tax evasion and turned out to be keeping vast amounts of undeclared cash in a Swiss bank account. The lawyer who set up Cahuzac's offshore account turns out to be a follower of extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen.

The previous five-year administration of Nicolas Sarkozy ended in disgrace on revelations that billionaire Liliane Bettencourt paid substantial kickbacks to his electoral campaign. Preceding two-time president Jacques Chirac also ended up in court on charges of providing party members with well-paid but fictitious civil service jobs. Socialists are not immune to scandal, however. After former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn ended up in jail for rape, his replacement, former Economics Minister Christine Lagarde, had her house searched as part of a probe into her allegedly murky dealings with billionaire Bernard Tapie and Credit Lyonnais bank. On the local level, Marseille Socialist party chief Jean-Noel Guerini is under arrest on suspicion of embezzlement and possible links with organized crime. But it is the Cahuzac affair that could be the undoing of Hollande, whose approval ratings were tanking even before the scandal hit.

''To the French, the president is either incompetent and nave, or guilty of a cover-up. It's a big deal either way'', Le Monde opined.(ANSAmed).