Sarkozy accused of 'manipulating' public opinion through polls

18th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

French journalists and opposition lawmakers voiced outrage Friday after an official report suggested President Nicolas Sarkozy paid for a string of opinion polls published as independent studies.

Paris - French journalists and opposition lawmakers voiced outrage Friday after an official report suggested President Nicolas Sarkozy paid for a string of opinion polls published as independent studies.

According to an annual report from the Cour des Comptes budget oversight body, the presidency spent some 400,000 euros last year on 35 political opinion surveys, at least 15 of which were also published in the French media.

In particular, it highlighted regular polls carried out by the OpinionWay institute and published in the pro-government Le Figaro newspaper and on the LCI 24-hour news channel, which is majority owned by Sarkozy ally Martin Bouygues.

The Cour des Comptes aimed to highlight wasteful spending by pointing out that Elysee-commissioned polls were all but identical to ones in the media -- but the revelations sparked charges of spin-doctoring.

An internal editorial watchdog at Le Figaro, the Societe des Redacteurs, called on the paper's management to "immediately halt" the publication of OpinionWay polls in light of the Cour des Comptes report.

"It appears that a number of 'OpinionWay' polls, published notably by Le Figaro, are commissioned by the presidency and that some are edited before they are made available to the public," it charged.

Le Figaro's editor-in-chief, Etienne Mougeotte, formally denied publishing surveys financed by the Elysee.

"Our poll, each week, is paid for on the basis of an annual contract. Anything that is said about a survey being paid for externally, in particular by the Elysee, is false and I most formally deny it," he told AFP.

But Socialist deputy Delphine Batho also called Friday for the Elysee to publish the 15 surveys "paid for by the presidency of the republic and published by certain media."

"From now on, the French people will know that when they hear that a media poll has been carried out by Opinion Way, it might have been paid for by Nicolas Sarkozy," Batho charged in a statement.

"We are at the heart of a system for manipulating public opinion, in collusion between the authorities, a polling institute and certain media."

According to the Cour des Comptes, the presidency last year paid EUR 392,288 (USD 553,572) to a consulting firm in order to "participate" in various opinion polls.

Questioned by the budget rapporteur, the Elysee said it has since changed its contract with the consultant in question, and that since March 2009 it had limited its involvement to studies dealing with the president's image.

AFP / Expatica

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