François Mitterrand and the gangrene of power

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This month marked the 20th anniversary of the death, on January 8th 1996 at the age of 79, of François Mitterrand, the first socialist president to be elected under France’s Fifth Republic. He served two successive terms in office from 1981 until 1995, during which time current president, François Hollande, and other leading Socialist Party figures received their political schooling. Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel takes stock of Mitterrand’s legacy of which, he argues here, the socialists now in power have retained only the dark side.

French foreign minister's intriguing tax favour for film director Luc Besson

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French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius. © Reuters French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius. © Reuters

An unauthorised biography of Luc Besson to be published in France on Wednesday recounts that the renowned French film director and producer was granted an extraordinary exemption from a multi-million-euro wealth tax payment when current French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was finance minister. The exemption, claims the book, was agreed after the intervention of Fabius, whose sister and nephew were employed by Besson. Fabrice Arfi reports.

Bettencourt 'butler tapes' ruling strikes victory for press freedom and right to know

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In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, five journalists from Mediapart and French weekly news magazine Le Point, together with the former butler of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, were cleared of invasion of privacy charges relating to the publication of the contents of secretly-recorded conversations between the billionaire and her close entourage of legal and financial advisors. The publication of the contents of the tapes, which lifted the lid on a web of corruption and manipulation, contributed to “debates of public and societal interest” and “without entering into elements of private life and family conflicts”, concluded the magistrates in Bordeaux following the trial of the six defendants last November. The full text of their ruling is presented in this report by Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan.

Saga of an ex-French minister and casino firm family shares

By Antton Rouget
Michèle Alliot-Marie at the National Assembly on March 30th, 2011. © Reuters Michèle Alliot-Marie at the National Assembly on March 30th, 2011. © Reuters

In 2011 Nicolas Sarkozy's then foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie was forced to quit after details emerged in the midst of the Arab Spring uprising of her ties with Tunisian leader Ben Ali. Now Mediapart can reveal details of a new affair involving the right-wing politician relating to when she was interior minister under the same administration. According to documents seen by Mediapart, during her time in office Alliot-Marie backed a series of measures favourable to the casino industry in France – at the same time as her family was buying shares in casino-owning companies. Antton Rouget reports.

Farmers face eviction to make way for new French airport

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At the end of 2015 the giant construction firm, Vinci, who are scheduled to build a new airport near Nantes in the west of France, sought an emergency court order to expel small-scale farmers who live and work on the planned site. The farmers, some of whose families have been on the same land for generations, are refusing to go. On Saturday January 9th opponents of the deeply controversial airport project staged a demonstration in support of the local farming community threatened with expulsion. Jade Lindgaard reports.

French MPs ponder return of 'national unworthiness' crime

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President François Hollande's socialist government has been at the centre of a political controversy since it announced that convicted dual-national terrorists would be stripped of French nationality. Many of its own supporters on the Left, including senior figures, are bitterly opposed to the idea. Now, as an alternative, some party MPs are suggesting a revival of the old offence of “national unworthiness”, which would entail the citizen concerned losing their civil rights and status, and which was last used at the end of World War II. Mathieu Magnaudeix explains.

French oil firm's polluting presence in Peruvian Amazon

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The French oil company Maurel & Prom has come under fire from French and local non-governmental organisations after it abruptly left a drilling platform in the Peruvian Amazon that was no longer deemed economically viable following the fall in world oil prices. In particular it has been accused of leaving behind environmental problems and of playing down the risks of pollution to local communities. Meanwhile the French Parliament has been considering a law that would force multinationals to operate a “vigilance plan” to avoid environmental and other problems in the future. Karl Laske reports.

Fifty years on: role of French Algerians in domestic politics

Mounument to the Pieds-Noirs on the promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Hélène Staes Mounument to the Pieds-Noirs on the promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Hélène Staes

Following Algeria's independence from France in 1962 around 800,000 Algerians of French descent, known as 'Pieds-Noirs', resettled in mainland France, many of them in the south of the country. It has long been assumed that the presence of so many of these repatriated settlers was a major factor in the political rise of the far-right Front National in the Mediterranean region of France. But as Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports, the supposed influence of this ageing group of voters may largely be a myth.

Removing French nationality: the slippery slope

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Prime minister Manuel Valls presented the reform on December 23rd, 2015. © Reuters Prime minister Manuel Valls presented the reform on December 23rd, 2015. © Reuters

President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls are forging ahead with plans to strip French nationality from anyone with dual nationality who commits terrorist acts against the country. This is despite strong opposition from many on the Left, including senior figures in the ruling Socialist Party. Here Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues that in following this path the socialist government is removing traditional political and historical reference points from its supporters. In particular, he says, the authorities have forgotten the warnings set out in philosopher Hannah Arendt's masterpiece 'The Origins of Totalitarianism'.

French Muslims who swap 'heathen' France for Egypt

By Adama Sissoko
One of the French Muslim families who have moved to Cairo. © Adama Sissoko One of the French Muslim families who have moved to Cairo. © Adama Sissoko

They are French, Muslim and living in Egypt. Several hundred Salafists from France have chosen to live in this “Islamic land” because they no longer wish to stay in their country of origin, a “land of disbelievers” or heathens where they feel it has become impossible to practice their religion as they wish. They are not jihadists and have come to Egypt in search of their Islamic identity. Yet for many this is proving harder than they thought. Adama Sissoko reports.

Revealed: the link between the 2010 and 2015 terror plots against the Paris Bataclan

By Philippe Cohen-Grillet
A bullet impact on a wall close to the Bataclan theatre. © Reuters A bullet impact on a wall close to the Bataclan theatre. © Reuters

Of the 130 people killed by gunmen and suicide bombers during the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, the single worst toll was at the siege of the Bataclan theatre and music hall which left 90 people dead. It has since emerged that the Bataclan was already the target of a jihadist plot in 2010, while France’s justice minister has dismissed any connection between that and the massacre in November. Mediapart has obtained access to a Belgian police report sent to their French colleagues in 2011 which clearly identifies the close links between the main suspect in the 2010 plot and the French jihadist who fronted the Islamic State group’s video claiming responsibility for the November attacks.

Anti-Arab violence in Corsica follows mounting hate campaign

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Since last Friday, following an attack on firefighters and police by a group of youths on a housing estate in Ajaccio, the capital of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, vigilante mobs chanting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim slogans have reigned terror on the neighbourhood, seeking out the perpetrators and ransacking a Muslim prayer room where they attempted to burn copies of the Koran. Despite an official ban on public demonstrations until January 4th in an effort to reduce the tensions, several hundred marchers on Sunday again tried to occupy the estate which is home to a large North African population. Rachida El Azzouzi and Ellen Salvi report on the events this weekend and why, as the mayor of Ajaccio admits, they came as no surprise.

The political sinking of French justice minister Christiane Taubira

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Christian Taubira. Christian Taubira.

France’s justice minister Christiane Taubira this week publicly declared that her government’s new anti-terrorist legislation proposals will not include stripping French nationality from dual nationals found guilty of terrorist crimes. It posed, she said, a “key problem for the fundamental principle of national rights by birthplace, to which I am profoundly attached”. Within 24 hours Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted that the proposal, pledged by President François Hollande after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, would go ahead. Adding to her humiliation, it is Taubira herself who will present the new bill of law before parliament early next year. Lénaïg Bredoux and Michel Deléan trace the transition of a once flamboyant icon of the Left into a passive objector.

What the success of Podemos says about the French Left

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. © Reuters Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. © Reuters

Last Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Spain saw the newly-founded left-wing Podemos party take third place with just under 21% of votes cast, right behind the PSOE socialist party (22%) and the conservative PP (28.72%). Mediapart editor François Bonnet and political correspondent Stéphane Alliès argue here that this groundbreaking victory for Podemos, a new left-wing alternative that was founded only last year, provides the French Left with major lessons to learn. But, they conclude, old habits die hard.

Fight for justice over African troops shot by French Army

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On December 1st, 1944 dozens, perhaps scores, of African colonial troops who had fought for the Allies during World war II were shot dead by soldiers of the French Army in Senegal. The official story is that these infantrymen and former prisoners of war had staged an armed revolt because they had not been paid. Relatives of those killed or jailed for “rebellion” insist, however, that the French Army committed a massacre. Géraldine Delacroix reports on a recent court case that examined this grim episode in French colonial history.