French press review 24 November 2014
A political power struggle, an unhappy police force, a new form of democracy, and the reshaping of regional France, those are the eye-catching stories on this morning's French front pages.
The dudes in the power struggle are Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé. On Saturday, Sarko held a meeting in Bordeaux, the city of which Juppé is the very popular mayor. Sarko was ostensibly rounding off his campaign for next weekend's vote to elect a new president of the right-wing UMP party, for which he is the bookmakers' favourite. But the real question is who is going to represent the UMP in the next presidential battle, and that's where the fighting gets dirty.
Alain Juppé wants the UMP candidate to be selected by a free and fair vote by party members, in an election to be organised by the new party president, very likely to be Nicolas Sarkozy. Except that Nicolas Sarkozy has no time for such energy-wasting guff: HE should be the next president of France, that's completely obvious, at least to him, and all this talk of primary elections is beside the real point.
On Saturday, his supporters boohed Juppé when he had the temerity to suggest that the party's constitution was very clear on the need for a primary election. And the problem with that, according to left-leaning daily paper, Libération, is that the already divided conservative party now risks coming apart at the seams, with factions heading off to support their own preferred presidential candidate, and Sarko doing his damnedest to keep all potential opponents in their proper place.
According to Libération, Sarkozy bussed in supporters from all over western France, some from as far away as Brittany, in order to out-number and out-shout Juppé's local cheerleaders.
The left-wing paper suggests the UMP party may be forced into open and fatal division if Sarkozy is elected as party president next Saturday.
Conservative paper Le Figaro gives the front page honours to the same Bordeaux boxing-match, but sees it all as legitimate political sparring.
Did Alain Juppé walk into a trap set for him by Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday night, asks Le Figaro. And the right-wing paper answers that question with an unequivocal "yes". However, we are not to see this as some nasty little political manipulation, but as a crucial confrontation between the true values of the French right - as represented by Senor Sarkozy - and those fudgers with a dangerously centrist tendency - like poor old Juppé.
One thing, at least, is certain, says Le Figaro: the presidential election in 2017 will take place amidst the ruins of a France destroyed by the Hollande administration. If the best the UMP can bring to that disaster is their own ravaged battlefield, then only the extreme right Front National will profit.
CatholicLa Croix looks at the French police force, an organisation that has seen 48 policemen commit suicide since the start of this year.
It's an old problem, linked to the difficulties of the job and the easy availability of firearms to individuals supposed to be bulwarks of society.
According to a psychologist interviewed by La Croix, all police officers are exposed to suffering on a more or less permanent basis; the crucial question is how they are managed by their superior officers.
But police management have a problem in recognising suicide as a work-related difficulty, and therefore won't put a worthwhile medical supervision scheme in place.
The new form of democracy is to be found in Kurdistan, a theoretical nation currently without borders and with its people spread over four states, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
So, perhaps it's not too surprising that they need something new to keep such a disparate population organised. And you thought the UMP was divided?
Communist L'Humanité is weak on details, suggesting that kurdish political life is organised on broadly socilialist lines, with a broad acceptance of women and minority groups. Given that, in Syria and Turkey at least, the kurds are in open conflict with the supposedly legitimate rulers, it's not too surprising that they have had to set up parallel structures of government. To glorify that as a new form of democracy, especially given deep divisions within the ranks of the kurds themselves, may be more than a slight exaggeration.
And then there's the organisational map of France, a reduction from the current 22 regions to a more streamlined 13. Which is all very fine, excet that nine cities will lose their status as regional capitals in 2016, and that has sparked some rivalry and irritation between neighbours. The bigger regions have been promised greater political autonomy. The details of that will be debated by central government next month.