Paris election fraud trial starts after 17 year wait

11th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) - In an echo of the corruption allegations hanging over French President Jacques Chirac, leading right-wing politicians appear in court Monday accused of stuffing ballot-boxes in order to swing municipal elections in the capital.

PARIS, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) - In an echo of the corruption allegations hanging over French President Jacques Chirac, leading right-wing politicians appear in court Monday accused of stuffing ballot-boxes in order to swing municipal elections in the capital.

For a country inured to long judicial delays, the trial of Corsican-born former senator Jacques Dominati, 79, and 14 others marks nonetheless an astonishing record because the first legal complaint was filed in 1989 — more than 17 years ago.

As mayor of Paris's third arrondissement or district, Dominati is accused of drawing up a list of more than 300 fake voters who helped ensure that he stayed in office after the municipal election of 1988.

Also facing fraud charges are his two sons Philippe Dominati, who is a member of the Senate for Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), and Laurent Dominati, a Paris city councillor, as well as Laurent de Gaulle — a great-nephew of the late president Charles de Gaulle.

Aggrieved residents of the third arrondissement filed suit in January 1989 following allegations in the press about the conduct of the election, but it was not till 1995 — when Dominati was beaten by the left — that the investigation made headway.

A computer file discovered at municipal offices allegedly contained a list of 327 names of people who were on the voting register but lived outside the arrondissement.

According to the prosecution, the fake voters were either friends of Dominati or else agreed to put their names on the list in return for a favour — such as a place at a municipal creche. Their role was crucial because in the 1988 election Dominati won by just 20 votes.

A former Gaullist who deserted because of his support for French Algeria, Dominati was a member of the Union for French Democracy (UDF), but he was widely seen as a right-wing ally of Chirac — who served as Paris city mayor from 1977 to 1995.

Yves Contassot, a Green party member of the Paris city council, said the practices uncovered at the town hall of the third arrondissement were symptomatic of the whole of the Paris administration under Chirac's leadership.

"I hope that in the course of this trial it is established that this was an organised Parisian system and not just the misdemeanours of a few elected officials. Behind it all was the former mayor of Paris," he said.

According to Contassot, the huge delay in bringing the case to trial was a sign that "as soon as you touch top level politicians, every method is used to prevent justice doing its work."

Chirac has been accused of presiding over a network of corruption at Paris city hall in order to raise money for his Rally for the Republic (RPR) party — since transformed into the UMP. He has escaped investigation because of his presidential immunity.

Monday's trial comes a day after the president — who is expected to leave office next year — came under attack from magistrates and the left-wing opposition for seeking to appoint his former legal adviser to a key judicial post.

Critics said that the planned nomination of Laurent Le Mesle as chief state prosecutor in Paris was a means to fend off the risk of corruption charges after Chirac loses his immunity.

François Hollande, first secretary of the Socialist Party, said it was a clear attempt by Chirac "to protect himself from possible legal proceedings that could be brought against him."

"This appointment is shocking," said Dominique Barella, head of the Union of Magistrates. "The problem is Laurent Le Mesle's extreme proximity with the minister of justice, and with the president of the republic."

The Dominati trial is scheduled to last till the end of October.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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