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French press review 19 April 2014

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The forced resignation of presidential advisor Aquilino Morelle for conflict of interest and extravagance dominates comments in the French press.


Morelle had been under pressure after allegations from investigative website Mediapart that he breached ethical guidelines for public servants by doing work for pharmaceutical companies in 2007, while he was a senior official in the ministry for social affairs. Mediapart also reported that Morelle, the head of Hollande's communications operations, kept 30 pairs of handmade shoes at the Elysée which were professionally polished every two months. Aquilino Morelle’s taste for the best things in life also reportedly led to him regularly raiding the palace's celebrated wine cellar for coveted bottles, to accompany routine working lunches.

e Figaro claims that his resignation has dealt a fresh blow to the beleaguered French president. According to the right-wing newspaper, having an extravagant man as political advisor to the president was of course shocking, at a time when Hollande's government is asking French voters to accept spending cuts to rein in the country's deficit. Le Parisien/Aujourd’hui en France called the scandal the clearest evidence yet that the republic is far from being exemplary. According to the paper, the Morelle affair has wrecked Hollande’s commitment to restore transparency and moral values to public life, adding that the head of the High Authority for transparency has unveiled plans to step up the hunt for cheats like Morelle in the public service.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

And Libération commends the Elysée Palace for its speedy action to take out the scandal-hit advisor. It argues that there was no way he could keep his job after the Cahuzac affair – the budget minister who pretended to crack down on tax evasion while owning bank accounts in tax havens. A communications expert tells Libé that it is chilling to imagine that such a close aide to the head of state would deliberately lead such a lifestyle without taking into account the ravaging effect it would have on the President’s image.

Some of Saturday’s papers satirize the electoral hold-up and Brezhnevian score made by Algerian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the 17 April presidential elections. The official tally hands the 77 year-old Bouteflika a 81 percent landslide, while his main challenger scored only 12 percent of the ballots cast. “Bouteflika again and Bouteflika forever”, headlines Le Figaro. Libération reports that Algerians have “hilariously hijacked” French pop star Stromae’s popular hit “Papaoutai”, meaning “daddy where are you”, to compose their own about the invisible Bouteflika. “Boutef outé” is reportedly causing a buzz on the Internet, according to Libé. The re-jigged lyrics scorn Bouteflika for trying to become king for the fourth time when he can’t even speak.

Le Monde joins world tributes to Nobel-prize winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died Thursday at the age of 87. The author’s "One Hundred Years of Solitude” was the incarnation of the Latin American novel and his surreal stories of family, love and dictatorship inspired millions around the world. Evidence of the impact he had on his home country can be seen in the outpouring of emotions his passing has provoked. Even the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group announced that it would seek inspiration from Colonel Aureliano Buendia, a character in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and make peace with the government.