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French weekly magazines review 21 June 2015

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Françafrique still going strong as President Hollande flouts his own promise to end the controversial colonial pact. Nicolas Sarkozy faces a thorny road to the Elysée and why France isn't contaminated by anti-austerity movements gaining ground in Europe


The era of the Françafrique relationship is definitely not over - as French President Francois Hollande declared in the Senegalese capital Dakar almost three years ago - opines Le Canard Enchaîné. The satirical weekly substantiates its conviction by pointing to the red carpet treatment given to the Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba during a private visit to Paris this week.

According to Le Canard, Bongo felt at home after being invited to sit by President Hollande’s side as he inaugurated the Bourget air show on Monday. The weekly reports that as the two leaders watched a display by France’s flagship Rafale fighter jets, Hollande leaned over and whispered to Bongo: “as arranged they’re going to offer you a good deal”.
The satirical weekly goes on to reveal Bongo’s charged work schedule in Paris that evening –which included a dinner with Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian preceding a full day that saw him wining and dining with Paris-based media and communication chiefs and a cream of chums in the French corporate sector. The publication wonders why a man facing an investigation in France for ill-acquired wealth would be the object of such attention.

In a week when ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy completed the renaming of his UMP opposition party, several papers scrutinize his prospects of leading “Les Republicains” to victory in 2017. Le Point profiles a powerful lobby in Sarkozy’s conservative party desperate to turn the page on the Sarkozy era, despite the former President’s conviction that he will win another term in the Elysée.

The right-wing magazine claims in this week’s editorial that the French are not used to pronouncing politicians as dead until their coffins are firmy buried under soil. Yet Le Point refuses to bet on Sarkozy as its winning horse. The weekly says that while he will have the party as his main asset, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé continues to lead Sarkozy by 42 to 33 in the opinion polls as the right and centrists' favoured candidate for President.

On top of that, Le Point lists 7 handicaps hampering his comeback plans. These include the millstone of the friends and rascals hanging around him. This week’s Le Canard Enchaîné, for example, also comments on the embarrassing presence at Sarkozy rallies of Levallois-Perret mayor Patrick and his wife, indicted for tax evasion and money laundering.

Le Point also points to his tendency to make reckless political statements, his bad economic record, marked by 600 billion euro increase in the French debt burden during his term in office. The right-wing publication now refers to Sarkozy as a worn out and outdated politician.

L’Express offers an interesting picture of the man seen by French conservatives as the new kid in town. He is Bruno Lemaire a long time cabinet chief to ex-Prime minister Dominique de Villepin and then Agriculture Minister during the Sarkozy presidency.

The magazine found out that he had hired the services of 280 experts to draft his manifesto. But according to the right-wing weekly, the good humoured and brilliant Lemaire is surfing on public opinion instead of trying to shape it. And the weekly doesn’t consider him capable of winning the Les Republicains primaries, citing erratic traits in his character.

On one occasion he described Sarkozy as lacking the authority of a chief, adding that he arouses more hatred than fascination from voters. Sarkozy will always be more of the bad guy than me, he bragged adding that he was better placed than Juppé to take more votes from Sarkozy.

L’Express conviction that Bruno Lemaire is driven by a delusion of grandeur which he doesn’t deserve is shared by Le Figaro magazine. The right-wing publication brands him as "the outsider in a hurry".

And left-leaning L'Obs rolls the red carpet out for Spain's hottest politician: Pablo Iglesias, the man "trying to change the direction of Europe". Iglesias is leader of the new anti-austerity Podemos party which came third in 12 of the 13 Spanish regions alongside 8000 towns and cities in last month's local elections.

The French New Observer sat down with the pony-tailed politician to discuss their spectacular rise to power and their plans to secure a sweeping victory for the party at Spanish legislative elections in the autumn. The magazine also explores the French paradox that noone from the left of the Left has succeeded in turning bubbling initiatives into tangible political results at a time when anti-austerity movements are gaining ground in Spain and Greece.