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French weekly magazines review 25 October 2015
This week's magazines look at life in Clichy-sous-Bois ten years after the riots which followed the deaths of two teenagers. Would Alain Juppé make a good French president? Why are people once again talking about disgraced IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn?And is Mars the kind of place to raise your kids?
Seventy years after the first handful of women deputies entered the French National Assembly, the Republic is still a long way from representative and other forms of parity. The covers of this morning's weekly magazines are a fair indication: of the four front pages featuring recognisable human figures, three are occupied by smiling men in suits, the fourth by an annonymous black woman pushing a pram.
We'll start with the woman.
I can't tell you her name, but I know she lives in the north Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Le Monde Magazine uses her photograph to illustrate an article on a community on the outskirts of the French capital where 45 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, where a quarter of families have one parent, where 35 per cent of job seekers have no qualifications. Although no one uses the word anymore, this is a ghetto.
If the place sounds familiar, that may be because you remember the tragic events of October 27, 2005, when two local teenagers were electrocuted when they tried to hide from police in a power transformer. The riots which followed lasted three weeks and briefly put Clichy-sous-Bois at the centre of world attention.
A lot of reforms were promised at the time. Le Monde finds that little has changed for the better over the past decade, with the exception of initiatives put in place by the residents themselves.
The men in suits all have names. None of them lives in Clichy-sous-Bois. They are Republican Party presidential hopeful, Alain Juppé, French finance minister, Emmanuel Macron, and former International Monetary Fund director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Juppé probably gives the other Les Républicains party leader hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, nightmares. After a rollercoaster political career which saw him prime minister of a country palaysed by strikes in the winter of '95, exiled for crimes committed by other people, he is now the preferred presidential candidate of most French voters.
Le Point wonders if he has the courage for the top job. Frequently criticised as "too old, too independent, and too soft," Juppé has turned his advanced years (he's seventy) to his advantage, assuring voters that he'll be a one-term president and playing the role of the wise man who has seen and suffered all. He does not have a huge flock of followers, a reassuring sign that he'll be his own man rather than the public face of various interests. The only doubt concerns his capacity to lead, to impose the unpopular measures that the next French president will need to have the courage to support.
First of all, of course, he has to get past the man who has the nightmares, and that could turn out to be Juppé's toughest test so far.
Then there's finance minister, Emmanuel Macron, seen by Le Nouvel Observateur as a young man on the make, rejecting the pieties of rank-and-file socialists, annoying his fellow ministers, dragging a reluctant French left towards some form of social liberalism. The only crucial question for Le Nouvel Observateur is whether history will remember him as a reformer or a gravedigger.
How history will remember Dominique Strauss-Kahn is another question entirely.
He's on the front page of this week's Marianne because he'll soon be back in court, this time to answer charges concerning the collapse of a Luxembourg-based financial company founded by Strauss-Kahn.
Marianne takes the occasion to lament the waste of a great talent in a swamp of judicial and personal scandals. The former socialist finance minister is frequently critical of the current administration, describing the French Socialist Party as "a dead star". Marianne says Strauss-Kahn has never accepted the fact that the alleged rape case which cost him his job at the International Monetary Fund also ended his hopes of running for the French presidency. The magazine reminds us that he remains the favourite potential candidate of one-third of French voters and is still a very ambitious man.
Another nightmare for Nicolas Sarkozy!
Le Figaro's weekly magazine looks at the possibility of a manned flight to Mars. Technically, a trip to the Red Planet is a piece of cake. Expert opinion converges on a bill running to 1,000 billion dollars. Which makes it very expensive cake. No one is really sure why we would want to go there in the first place.
Finally, L'Express gives pride of place to New York, describing the American city as the world leader in finance, the arts and communications. A long way from Clichy-sous-Bois, New York boasts an average monthly rent of 2,600 euros and a minimum basic wage of less than 15 dollars an hour. Mars almost begins to look like good value. Have a nice day!