Former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac shocked France this week by admitting to tax evasion. The scandal represents a potential disaster for the struggling Socialist government and could increase pressure from the public and the political opposition against President François Hollande.
France initially reacted with shock and anger to former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac's online "confession" on Tuesday to having illegal accounts in foreign banks. These emotions were quickly replaced with disenchantment, acrimony and frustration. And now the case of the plastic surgeon-turned-politician has triggered a crisis for the 10-month-old government of Socialist President François Hollande. Indeed, Cahuzac's defiant four-month lying campaign, the reaction to the accusations and its surprising denouement—all of which has happened in a Fifth Republic that has not exactly been wanting for scandals, intrigues and affairs—will confront France's political culture with a decisive test.
What did government officials know? When did it dawn on Hollande that he had been duped by his budget minister, who stepped down in mid-March? And how could the president, equipped with his almost monarchical power, rely on the solemn word of his fellow Socialist during a one-on-one talk in the Elysée Palace? During his election campaign, Hollande pledged to usher in an "irreproachable republic." But now, in addition to being outmatched by the ongoing economic crisis, he is also being found morally culpable.