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Press review Russia Vladimir Putin Marine Le Pen

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French weekly magazine review 11 March 2018

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Two dynasties dominate this week's magazines. There's the far-right Le Pen family here in France and their struggle for control of the National Front. And then there's that one-man dynasty, the soon-to-be re-elected Russian president Vladimir Putin.


There's a lot in this week's magazines about the Le Pen family and the struggle for control of the far-right political party which we have up to now called the National Front.

Very soon, we'll have to call it something else as the party faithful at their annual congress in the northern city of Lille are expected to vote in favour of changing the name of the organisation that was cofounded by Jean-Marie Le Pen and is currently presided over by his daughter Marine, with his grand-daughter, Marion, tipped by many to be planning a political comeback.

The possible new names for the National Front are expected to be made public later today, and the party's membership will then be asked to choose by means of a postal ballot.

The name change is clearly an attempt to turn the page on Marine Le Pen's disappointing performanc in the last presidential battle but also to continue her work aimed at revamping the image of an organisation traditionally associated with skinheads, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

To that end, yesterday's appearance at the FN congress by star speaker Steve Bannon, he who used to run US far-right website Breitbart News, famous for its incendiary rumours, and who was the driving force behind the last leg of Donald Trump's election campaign, may have backfired.

Bannon would seem to be exactly the sort of nightmare Marine Le Pen wants to leave behind her. Especially when he put both feet in it yesterday by praising her niece Marion, a traditionalist right-wing Catholic who recently addressed a right-wing conference in the United States to great acclaim, as the rising star of French politics.

When a journalist asked Aunty Marine if she was pleased to hear such praise for Marion, the smiling Marine Le Pen's teeth were so tightly clenched she could hardly breathe.

The invitation of Steve Bannon was intended to show that Marine Le Pen has powerful friends on the global stage. He probably won't be asked back next year.

Vladimir Putin's tsarist epic, episode five

The other big name on this week's front pages is that of Vladimir Putin, the man who has effectively ruled Russia for the past 18 years and will launch season five of his tsarist epic after next Sunday's reelection formailties.

L'Express attempts to look at the housekeeping which Putin has recently organised to strengthen his grip on power; Le Nouvel Observateur offers a portrait of the man in five "secrets".

Putin's power is based on his control of everything that matters in military, intelligence, business and political affairs, according to L'Express. He has 16 right-hand men who make sure that the tsar's line is followed to the letter across the spectrum. Which makes him very powerful, but also leaves him open to the errors and ambitions of his double octopus. As Julius Ceasar could tell old Vlad, right-hand men sometimes come bearing knives in their right hands.

As for the secrets revealed by Le Nouvel Obs, they're hardly worth the cover price of 4.50 euros.

Putin, we are told, owes his current power to the fact that he's a former superspy, with missions notably to East Germany. But what was he really doing? L'Obs admits it has no idea. That's the trouble with spies.

Putin is good at intrigue and manipulation, the paper "reveals". He's a politician, for God's sake! In contemporary Russia!

Putin is extraordinarily rich, possibly the wealthiest man on the plannet according to Forbes magazine. But his salary as Russian president is 20,000 euros short of Emmanuel Macron's take-home pay. Where is the money and where did it come from? Those are secrets beyond the reach of Le Nouvel Observateur. They might do well to look at the books of the national energy giant Gazprom for a start.

Vladimir is good at keeping the rival clans who run the vast Russian bureaucracy at one another's throats and away from his own. That, of a man who has spent two decades at the top of the pile, is hardly a secret.

And the final revelation is that the president's private life is the most closely guarded secret in Russia. The mere suggestion that Vlad was having his back scratched by the Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, gold medalist at the Athens Games, was enough to put the newspaper which published the story permanently out of business. Le Nouvel Observateur spoke to some very well-informed sources but they are keeping the information to themselves. It's too dangerous to do otherwise.

Russia goes to the polls to elect its old president this day week. Expect no surprises.