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French press review 20 August 2012

Headlining French papers today, battle for the UMP leadership has begun; the issue of how to deal with insecurity in the country; and Salafists manage to disrupt cultural festivals in Tunisia.

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The UMP leadership battle has begun”, headlines Le Figaro. The conservative party, whose former leader Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidential race three months ago, now has 6 official and semi-official candidates for the party’s leadership position. But they still have three months to consolidate their respective positions.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The current party leader, Jean-Francois Copé, is going to announce his candidacy at the end of the week notes the paper. However, supporters of the former Prime Minister, François Fillon are confident remain confident in his abilities. The paper says Fillon supporters are boosted by the opinion polls that place him in a favourite position with 48 per cent of favourable opinions of conservative electorate.

The only female candidate, the former government minister and Sarkozy’s spokeswoman Natalie Kosiscko Moriset is currently touring France to present her ideas to the party’s activists. So far, only seven per cen of the UMP supporters are ready to vote for her.

But perhaps most interestingly, the right wing daily notes that 53 per cent of the conservative party’s supporters hope Sarkozy will run again in the 2017 presidential election.

While the conservatives are beginning their fight for leadership, Aujourd’hui en France draws up in its politics section a list of challenges awaiting François Hollande after his return from holidays.

According to the paper’s list, the French president will have to fly to Germany to continue working on resolving the euro crisis. His government will have to introduce tax hikes to reduce the deficit. It will also have to deal with the massive layouts in the industry, fight with overpopulation in prisons, tackle the insecurity and deal with the Roma people.

The popular daily interviews a prominent political scientist who analyses what is at stake for the French president after the holiday period. The political scientist says the nation is pessimistic about the future of the country. Despite the fact that the French have now understood the gravity of the crisis, they are not ready to be indulgent with the president.

Unless Hollande manages to make the population accept the fact that it would take some sacrifices to improve the economic situation in the country, he risks a very rapid plunge in popularity and, therefore, his capacity to push through major reforms.

The left-wing Libération dedicates its first five pages to the security, or rather insecurity, which plagues the country. “What are the socialists afraid of?”, asks the headline. A rather unusual title for the left-leaning paper, which features an exclusive interview with the minister of the interior, Manuel Valls.

The interview clearly states his ambition: “I want to prove that an Interior minister can at the same time impose the authority of the State and safeguard public liberties”

But does the he have the necessary means to fulfil these promises?, asks the paper. The minister says that he is going to preserve the 4,000 police positions that the previous conservative government wanted to axe.

Talking about last week’s riots in Amiens, Manuel Valls says that tackling violence is a must since it represents an additional injustice on the most modest segment of population. But, notes the minister, responding only by security measures is not enough. This is why some of the government’s top priorities are education and employment.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

On its international pages, Le Figaro features the story of Tunisian salafists, who managed to disrupt or sabotage cultural festivals in three different Tunisian cities. “The salafists impose their moral order”, reads the title.

In Menzel-Bourghiba, a stand up comedian preferred to cancel his show after salafists were praying at the theatre. In Kairouan, a Tunisian singer had to cancel his show because some members of his group were Iranian Shiites.

Boosted by the feeling of impunity, Salafists did not hesitate to go beyond intimidation and use violence. The paper says that last Thursday, they attacked participants during Al Quds day with sticks and swords.

The paper interviewed a few political scientists who consider that Ennadha, the islamist party in power, lets the extremists act in order to divert the public opinion from the fact that they do not have a solid political program.

The article adds that perhaps the lack of firm response to the rise of salafists is also due to the fact that the party in power has common ideas with them. It reminds that at the beginning of August, the ruling party has introduced the blasphemy law.

And finally, since some of us are still on summer holidays, the popular Aujord’hui en France invites us for a very unusual walk…in the water.

The “Trip of the day” section features sea walks organised in Peros-Guirec, a tiny sea resort on the Western coast of France.

The aqua-march allows the participants to work out their muscles while admiring the “superb pink granite coastline”.

And to end the 800 metres workout, there’s nothing better than a “drink of friendship” offered on a surf board. In the water, of course.

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