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What the papers said 30 Mar 2018

rfi English, Mar 30

Ex-President Sarkozy faces second indictment for influence peddling; and SNCF commissions managers and foreign workers as season of rolling strike looms.

The end is nigh

The commentators are all predicting a dramatic end for former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, after he was ordered to stand trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling involving a judge from whom he sought information about an investigation.

The case centers on conversations between Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog and former judge Gilbert Azibert that were tapped by investigators looking into claims that Sarkozy had once accepted illicit payments from the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

He was cleared over the Bettencourt allegations in 2013, but the wiretaps suggested he had floated the idea that Azibert, a magistrate from a top appeals court, could be given a top job in Monaco in exchange for information on the Bettencourt probe.

The 63-year-old has also been charged over suspected illegal financing and corruption involving former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi in the most serious of the allegations against him, becoming the first former French president to be taken into police custody during a preliminary stage of the inquiry.

L'Est Républicain claims that Sarkozy is in dire straits with two cases pending and three indictments awaiting him. It argues that his allegations of being victimised by the judiciary doesn't hold any water.

As L’Est Républicain observes, after two defeats in the 2012 Presidential elections and in the 2017 Republican Party primaries, no one took him seriously when he announced his retirement from politics.

For Républicain Lorrain, Sarkozy looks increasingly like a born loser as he got caught up again in the Bettencourt affair for which he had been discharged .

According to the paper, it was in an effort to recover his diaries impounded by investigators that he established dubious contacts with the magistrate in search for a promotion which has cost him so dearly with a second indictment.

The paper says that the ex-President's affairs are becoming quite boring even to his staunchest supporters, and that the outcome is increasingly obvious to all as nothing less than the end of the road.

Rolling strikes

As the French unions mobilize for rolling strikes over the next three months to protests cuts in public service jobs and a landmark overhaul of the State railway operator SNCF, l'Humanité says the government is stopping at nothing to minimize its effects.

It claims that as soon as the railway workers laid out their strategy for industrial action, two days out of every five, starting next Tuesday and Wednesday, blows are being unleashed on them from all directions.

The Communist party daily claims that managers are being forced to replace the strikers and workers hired from abroad to take charge of maintenance, not forgetting threats by the company's management to punish them with arbitrary cuts in their salaries.

L'Opinion confirms SNCF's option for a hardline response to the strikers' determination to shut down the transport system. The paper says that on such a highly political dossier, the railway transporter couldn't have approved such a strategy with the government's blessings.

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