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French press delights as Sarkozy hits back after police grilling

© AFP (archive)

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-07-03

France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to have won the grudging respect of much the French press on Thursday after he suggested in a TV interview that political enemies were behind his recent police questioning and the graft allegations.

The former centre-right president gave a storming performance in a television interview on TF1 on Wednesday after he was placed under formal investigation on allegations of influence-peddling and attempting to corrupt a judge in a case of labyrinthine permutations.

Sarkozy, who was held for questioning for 15 hours in a Paris police station on Wednesday (the first time this has ever happened to a former president), vehemently protested his innocence in the primetime interview and stated that there had been a deliberate “intention to humiliate him” as he prepared a political comeback.

Click here for an in-depth look at the charges Sarkozy faces

He also suggested that the ruling Socialists were behind the allegations and that there was “blatant political interference” in the judicial system. "In our country, which is the country of human rights and the rule of law, there are things that are being organised [behind closed doors]," he said.

And if the French national and regional press was not unanimously behind Sarkozy, many were impressed with his fighting spirit.

Sarkozy’s ‘blitzkrieg’

“Going on such a counterattack has all the elements of the opening of a political campaign,” said popular daily Le Parisien. With ill-disguised glee, the paper declared, “It’s going to get bloody.”

Regional daily Sud-Ouest also revelled in the gladiatorial display of a political fight to the death.

“Yesterday [Sarkozy] gave us the singular and fascinating spectacle of a political beast who is missing the smell of the arena and is desperate to get back into the thick of it,” the newspaper said in its editorial.

There was another military allusion in popular regional newspaper L’Est Republicain: “Nicolas Sarkozy handled his media response with blitzkrieg speed, and with the tenacity and aggression for which he is well known.”

‘Disastrous judicial soap opera’

If the popular and regional newspapers enjoyed the sight of the former president rolling up his sleeves for a fight, France’s national dailies were more ambivalent in their response.

Centre-left daily Le Monde criticised what it called Sarkozy’s “disastrous judicial soap opera”, while Libération blasted Sarkozy for “failing to take into account the failures of his predecessors who decided on the same strategy”.

“Sarkozy has simply taken up the tired cliché of ‘political interference in the judiciary’ and of partisan left-wing judges fuelled by a profound contempt of the law,” Liberation declared disdainfully.

According to a BVA opinion poll taken Wednesday for Le Parisien, 63 percent of those questioned said they did not believe Sarkozy was being unfairly treated by the courts.

Date created : 2014-07-03


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