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French weekly magazines review 20 July 2014

President François Hollande visits Africa, infighting continues in the UMP as the scandals keep coming and there’s a warning to Israel that its policies are endangering its future survival.


Marianne’s coverage of Hollande’s African tour this weekend is marked by a background article on the state of Franco-Ivorian relations.

According to the weekly, while the high point of the trip was the signing of an accord on judicial cooperation notably the training of magistrates and the construction of judicial infrastructure, Hollande’s talks with President Alassane Ouattara focussed on security matters.

Dossier: War in Mali

A key point was the dossier of the nine French soldiers killed in an Ivorian airstrike on a French base in Bouaké in 2003. Those behind the attack have not yet been identified.

French lawyer Jean Balan, who is defending former president Laurent Gbagbo in his war crimes case at The Hague, tells Marianne that the French parliament, the army and the government were all manipulated thanks to the manner in which the case was presented.

The facts were very far from what really happened, he claims, pointing out that his client believes the bombardment of the French base in Bouaké was part of an operation to overthrow him. Barrister Balan names France’s then-foreign minister Dominique de Villepin as the soul of the plot.

Plots and intrigue are very much an issue of interest to the French magazines this week amid continuing revelations about the settling of scores tearing apart the conservative opposition UMP party.

Le Nouvel Observateur says the watchword now is “tout sauf Sarkozy” (anything but Sarkozy) in a reference to apparent comeback plans by the former president. Sarkozy’s attack dogs now suspect former prime minister Francois Fillon of leaking all the scandals that have hit the party.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

These range from the UMP’s colourful scheming with the scandal-hit Bygmalion PR Company, down to the shock revelations that the party spent 24,000 euros on travel for the wife of the disgraced party leader Jean Francois Copé.

Le Nouvel Observateur says Luc Chatel, the current UMP party secretary and Sarkozy disciple who launched a probe into the leaks, now considers Fillon to be the mastermind of the suspected robbery of membership lists. Fillon, who is one of triumvirate now running the UMP,and a declared candidate for the 2017 presidential elections, has denounced irregularities in the party membership records. He’s crying foul that donors who contributed in the “Sarkothon” fundraising drive to bail the UMP out of bankruptcy have all been registered as party members, often without their knowledge.

According to Le Nouvel Observateur, Fillon believes the ploy is aimed at swelling Sarkozy’s tally during upcoming UMP leadership elections and presidential primaries. The left-leaning publication actually has a two-page spread on the nine-floor UMP headquarters at the rue de Vaugirard in downtown Paris. It’s now a house of traitors, says Le Nouvel Observateur, giving details about where, the various factions - the Juppéists, the Fillonists, the Sarkozysts and the Copéists - are cohabiting in an atmosphere of mutual hatred.

Le Canard Enchaîné isn’t letting up in its tell-all series about the scandal-prone UMP. The satirical weekly says an audit team was stunned to discover that the 10 million euros their lawmakers receive as MP development funds annually are managed without the services of a treasurer.

No major power is at ease with the new conflict that has broken out in the Middle East, says Jacques Attali, the respected former adviser to French President François Mitterrand in a column published by L’Express this week.

According to Attali, the murder of three Jewish teenagers and a young Palestinian, followed by the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and Israel’s punitive raids into the Gaza Strip have left thousands of victims on the Palestinian side and weakened Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement, considered a collaborator with Israel.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Everything seems designed to nourish the spirit of vengeance and extremism, writes Attali. He argues that the hawkish agendas of the belligerents have been allowed to thrive due to the outbreak of new conflicts in the region such as the Sunni-Shia jihad in Iraq, the hijacking by Islamists of the democratic uprising in Syria, Hezbollah’s stranglehold on Lebanon and Egypt’s continuing battle with the Muslim Brotherhood -- all conflicts which threaten the geostrategic interests of the superpowers.

Attali warns Israel that its current refusal to accept the creation of a viable Palestinian state could push its Arab, Turkish and Persian neighbours, who are almost all Muslims, to bury their differences. That, he says, would either mark the end of the Jewish state or its transformation into a new South Africa, dominated by Arabs on the strength of demographic and democratic considerations.

Marianne urges the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop piling tragedy on misfortune. All that good-hearted people around the world wish for after the bloodshed and hatred is to see the birth of a single fraternal nation driven by the two cultures, it says.

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