Majority of French favour reshuffle after tax scandal: Poll

PARIS (AFP) - Nearly two-thirds of French people are in favour of a government reshuffle following a tax fraud scandal that has rocked the administration of President Francois Hollande, a survey showed on Sunday.

Critics have rounded on Mr Hollande - already in the doldrums in opinion polls - over the scandal in which ex-budget minister Jerome Cahuzac faces charges of tax fraud after he admitted owning an undeclared foreign bank account containing some 600,000 euros (S$970,366).

Three in five respondents to a poll conducted for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper said they said they were in favour of a government reshuffle soon over the "Cahuzac affair".

A majority of the more than 1,000 respondents also said the scandal had had a negative impact on Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, his government and on Hollande himself.

"For the French, the Cahuzac affair is not an isolated act. There is mistrust towards their elected representatives," Mr Frederic Dabi, deputy head of Ifop, the polling company that conducted the survey, was quoted as saying.

The scandal erupted on Tuesday after Mr Cahuzac - once in charge of tackling tax evasion - admitted to investigators that he had the account, after repeatedly denying it to the president, in parliament and in media interviews.

Critics promptly accused Mr Hollande and his deputies of either trying to cover up the scandal or of mismanagement for having believed Mr Cahuzac's denials.

Mr Hollande then came under even more criticism when it was revealed that his campaign treasurer, businessman Jean-Jacques Augier, had joint ownership of two firms registered in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven.

Mr Augier had said he had done nothing illegal and that his business activities were entirely separate from his political actions.

Last week, both Mr Ayrault and the president rejected the idea of a government reshuffle, despite growing pressure from critics on either side of the political divide.

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