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French press review 27 July 2013

Today’s French papers are all about Mali and Sunday’s landmark vote and the hope that it may restore a sense of normality to the war-torn west African country. They  also look at a tense Tunisia.

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For Libération, while the vote is set to get underway in a tense atmosphere due to the just-ended war, French President François Hollande deserves credit for piling pressure on the country’s people to go to the polls. Kidal, the main town in the northern Tuareg bastion remains the key to the elections, according to Libé.

Dossier: War in Mali

Le Monde says Malians themselves are looking forward to Sunday’s vote with high expectations, hoping that the process will jump-start the reconstruction of their country.

According to the paper, six months after the French military intervention there are 27 candidates running for the country’s highest office and the winner will have the daunting tasks of rebuilding the army, the administration, reconciling the country’s people and negotiating last peace with the Tuaregs in the north.

Le Figaro claims in an editorial that it’s a three-set match that France is playing in Mali. According to Le Figaro, Paris was brilliant in the first set thanks to a meticulous diplomatic engagement of African stakeholders and a flawless military operation in which it lost just half a dozen men and suffered no criticism from the Africans except from Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, who may have paid the price of taking that position.

Set two is tougher, says Le Figaro, as it involves the reconstruction of the political institutions in this vast, ethnically heterogeneous country that is three times the size of France. The problem, according to Le Figaro, is that France and Mali do not see eye to eye when it comes to identifying their enemies.

For Bamako it is the Tuaregs seeking a separate state for their people, while for France it is the Islamist threat posed to the entire sub-Saharan region by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Le Figaro says the holding of a hitch-free vote in the Tuaregs' fief of Kidal - even with massive abstention rates - is the best Paris can expect under current conditions and will suffice to let France take the second set.

France will have to overcome two obstacles to take the third and final set, according to Le Figaro. One is how to prevent a return of the jihadis who are regrouping in the south of Libya and the second forging a Malian administration that will be respected by all the ethnic components of the vast country. Unfortunately, that will not depend on France, according to Le Figaro.

Aujourd’hui en France expects a high-tension day for Tunisia’s Islamist government as thousands of demonstrators are attend the funeral of the assassinated opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi gunned down outside his home on Thursday.

Le Figaro claims that, while the opposition blames the murder on the Ennahda Islamists in power, the government points instead to the radical Salafist movement Ansar al-Sharia as the extremists perpetrating the terror.

Libération reports that Tunisia’s interior ministry has named French-born Boubaker el-Hakim as the prime suspect. According to Libé, Hakim who was born in Paris, is aged 30 and was jailed for seven years on terrorism charges. Currently on the run, he is believed to have moved to Tunisia after the end of his prison term in 2011

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

Right-wing Le Figaro is having a having a field day headlining on a decision by a judge to have the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn retried on charges of "aggravated pimping as part of a group".

Libération recalls that Strauss-Kahn was acquitted only last year of "aggravated pimping as part of an organised gang" in the "Carlton affair". The case came to light after he resigned from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund over an alleged sexual assault on a New York hotel maid. Aujourd’hui en France notes that the charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up 1.5 million euros.

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