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French Press Review 9 August 2010

So the polls finally opened on Monday for the presidential election in Rwanda, and almost all of the French newspapers' coverage highlights the political violence and lack of choice and opposition that have marked the country’s election campaign.


It can be said with some certainty that incumbent Paul Kagame will be re-elected and although his is not the only name on the ballot, he is by far the favourite.

Mr Kagame is of course widely credited with bringing security to Rwanda after it was torn apart by genocide in 1994, and his regime has acted as a guarantor of stability sufficient enough to attract foreign investment and international aid.

Centrist daily Le Monde points out that his main two rivals in the election offer little genuine alternative and that all three of the other candidates are in fact linked to Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) anyway.

It also recounts the murder of a dissident of the RPF and that of a journalist who was about to publish a story accusing the authorities of being responsible for the murder of exiled ex-Rwandan army general Faustin Nyamwasa, alluding to the exclusion of opposition groups and the silencing of dissent.

Right-leaning Le Figaro similarly headlines its International section with "Kagame, a president without rivals" and denounces the race for the presidency as an "electoral masquerade".

Catholic paper La Croix says fear is the problem in Rwanda and calls it a "locked election" which will allow Kagame to hold an even tighter grip on a country he already firmly controls.

Leftist paper Libération’s focus on the story is the growth of Rwanda’s economy, which has doubled in size in the last five years under Kagame and is expected to grow by around six per cent this year.

La Croix runs a story on the devastating effects of Russia’s heat wave, saying the Russian capital is choking in the thick smog fuelled by the recent fires in the country. It says that Moscow has registered nearly 5,000 more deaths in July 2010 than in the same period last year.

Business daily Les Echos’ front page has a story concerning suspicion over social networking sight Facebook’s user figures, which have reportedly just hit 500 million. What Les Echos says remains to be seen is how these figures are calculated and if they are really reliable.

What’s rather interesting is that Facebook's user figures in, say, Paris or London or Stockholm often far exceed those cities’ populations. For example, according to Facebook there are 4.5 million Facebook users in Paris, despite the fact that Paris has a population of only 2.2 million.

Oslo breaks the record supposedly having 1.4 million users, despite only having a population of 0.6 million, so the moral of the story here is that aliens must be tapping into Earth’s digital highway - either that some people have more than one Facebook account.

Communist paper L’Humanité’s front page is all about unemployment. "Work axed for profits" is its headline saying that more than 256,000 jobs were destroyed last year in what it calls une année noire or black year for employment.

Whilst unemployment soared, so did the profits of some of the top companies on the French Stock exchange. L'Humanité highlights the first-quarter profits of financial institutions BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Axa - which display what the paper calls "insolent profits", largely boosted by public funds, to the detriment of course of growth and employment.

Libération headlines with story about price increases in the French property markets and takes a look at what 300,000 euros might buy you across the country. That sum will apparently buy you a three-bedroom house in Montpellier, a town house in Tours, and unsurprisingly, in Paris a studio apartment in the suburbs.

Making centrist-daily Le Monde’s front page is a story on Nicolas Sarkozy’s new A330 Airbus dubbed "Air Sarko One". Not sufficiently happy with his two A3-19 aircrafts he’s had an A330 jet decked out in much the same fashion as Air Force One.

He will have a bedroom with a double bed, a bathroom with shower, a board room and full telephone, internet and fax access. A fax machine at 150,000 feet, the mind boggles! There will be enough space for his 16-strong entourage too. Oh and like the rest of us he won’t be allowed to smoke.

All this at a cost to the French tax payer of 156 million euros. Le Monde makes the observation that during la crise British Prime Minister David Cameron relinquished his private jet and travelled to Moscow in British Airways’ business class.

So, a very naughty Mr Sarkozy there.


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