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Press review Iraq Elections Uber Women's rights

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French press review 12 May 2018


Who will win today's parliamentary elections in Iraq? How bad is the position of Iraqi women? What has President Emmanuel Macron got planned for his remaining four years at the helm? And would you get into a flying taxi?

Le Monde gives pride of place to Iraq as voters go to the polls there to elect a new parliament.

The head of the outgoing government, Haider al-Abadi, is tipped to retain his job as prime minister, based on his claim of most of the credit for defeating Islamic State (IS) jihadists and seeing off a Kurdish push for independence.

However, competition from within al-Abadi's Shia-Muslim community, the majority group dominating Iraqi politics, is likely to divide the vote and lead to complicated camel-trading before a government can be formed.

Whoever emerges as premier will face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against IS and the preceding years of conflict.

Seats for women

Le Monde notes that there are 2,600 women among the 7,000 candidates for parliamentary seats but that the presence of women in the public domain is far from broadly accepted.

One quarter of the 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament have been reserved for women since 2005. But only 22 female candidates managed to win seats in the 2014 elections - 61 others had to be designated, having fallen short of the number of votes required to take seats outright.

She dreamt of wearing the white dress

Libération also looks at the position of women in Iraqi society. The left-leaning daily paints a far more sombre picture.

Libé says forced marriages, polygamy, disguised forms of prostitution and the absence of any real political representation have meant that the plight of Iraq's women has deteriorated since the American invasion in 2003.

The paper quotes Maryam, married at the age of 15 to a man 25 years her senior and himself already married with three children. Her family was paid the equivalent of 4,000 euros and Maryam became the slave of the first wife.

Asked why she accepted the deal, Maryam says "I dreamt of wearing the white dress like they do in the television series. I knew nothing about the rest."

Since she refused to continue to be the household slave, she has been repudiated and sent back to her family. She is now 16 years old.

The so called Jaafari law allows Iraq's Shia majority to marry children as young as nine. Five percent of Iraqi girls are married before the age of 15, one-quarter of them before they are 18. Sixty percent of marriages end in divorce.

One year over for President Macron, four more to go

Right-wing Le Figaro looks at what President Emmanuel Macron has planned for the rest of his five-year mandate.

There is going to be no shortage of reforms. The plan is to keep up the pace of change to ensure that the effort for reform does not lose impetus.

One member of the presidential team says that, if the present speed is maintained, Macron will run out of things to reform by mid-mandate and will be forced to think of new things to change.

Others, perhaps slightly more pragmatic, are inclined to suggest that time and energy will be needed to evaluate and fine tune projects already begun. That, for example, has already been done with the universal social contribution, with 100,000 pensioners getting off the hook because their incomes were only a few euros over the limit for the charge.

Economic reform is seen as a starting point. Now the government can turn to the more complicated business of social reform - culture, religion in general, Islam in particular.

But, before any of that, the Macron government has to get over its first electoral obstacle, next year's European elections.

Given that the French president has built his political identity on the basis of a European regeneration, nothing less than a resounding victory will do. Le Figaro admits that Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the right-wing Republicans, has done a lot to help Macron realise that crucial landslide by scaring the liberal and pro-European right away from the conservative ranks.

Uber promises flying taxis within a decade

Le Monde reports that the bosses of the online taxi service Uber are convinced that there will be flying taxi over several cities within the next 10 years.

This was revealed at a Los Angeles conference on the future of urban transport this week.

The gizmos, a cross between drones and helicopters, will carry four passengers at a speed somewhere between 240 and 320 kilometres per hour. Specially built "vertiports" will be capable of accommodating several hundred take-offs and landings every hour.

One fears that crashes will be spectacular and terribly fatal.

Uber plans to launch the first commercial service in 2023, probably in the United States.

It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the still earthbound Uber lost nearly four billion euros last year.