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French press review 30 May 2015

Warnings that South Africa is becoming a safe haven for Jihadists; Has ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy outwitted his rivals after changing the name of the main opposition party?; and Sepp Blatter's re-election as FIFA President, despite the corruption scandal, sends grim message about graft and impunity in global football.

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 "Blatter prolongs happiness", crows L’Equipe in its first reaction to the election of the 798 year-old at the head of the decaying FIFA. The sports daily makes a shocking revelation which is bound to cause some commotion in France. The President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet was one of the delegates who voted in Blatter’s favour.

"Blatter keeps his head, as those of others roll", headlines Liberation. The paper says that the reigning prince of global football was almost pushed into a second round before validating his right to a fifth mandate at the helm of world football’s governing body. Sepp Blatter garner 133 votes against 73 for the Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, far short according to the paper of the 140 ballots the 79 year-old Grand Pa needed to obtain the absolute majority required to win.

For Libé it is the Jordanian prince’s withdrawal which spared the great FIFA lord a second round humiliation. According to the left-leaning newspaper, Blatter’s triumph sends a grim message to those expecting a revolution: “move, end of story, there is nothing to see”.

Libération expects a lot of champagne to flow as usual, bought with part of the 308 million euros of profits made by FIFA between 2011 and 2014 from 5.2 billion euros of investments, according to accounts approved by the 65th FIFA congress held in Zurich.

On its part, Le Figaro argues that while Blatter didn’t get the plebiscite he expected, it will be wrong to believe that the crafty and iron-fisted Blatter was the sole corrupting agent. It is the entire system which he perfected with the energetic and passive complicity of all the stakeholders of international football that needs to be condemned.

In this weekend’s special supplement, Liberation laments the broken dream of South Africa, the rainbow nation. The coverage is an inside account about the abandoned and forgotten citizens of the country with a reputation for its tolerance. South Africa, according to Libé, has become a refuge for Jihadists, and is on the verge of becoming a lunching pad for terrorists especially Somalia’s al Shebaab militants.

The paper holds that such is South Africa’s reputation because the fight against terrorism is none of Pretoria’s priority. Hence his appeal to Western countries to invent diplomacy of neo-realism in a world wherein they are no longer the sole masters.

Le Figaro basks in the enthusiasm sweeping through the conservative opposition UMP movement as some 20,000 party members gather in Paris this Saturday at a congress to celebrate the party’s metamorphosis. The UMP is due to adopt a new official name to be called The Republicans after a massive approval by 83 per cent of the party’s members.

Le Figaro says some 60 orators are scheduled to speak at the gathering including Presidential hopefuls and former Prime Ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppé who are poised to challenge party leader and ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy during upcoming primaries.

But for Libération all the talk about the celebration of unity is a smokescreen.

According to the left-leaning newspaper, “Les Republicains” or Republicans has been created to serve Sarkozy who already has the battle for the 2017 presidential primaries in the back of his mind.

Liberation mourns the end of what it claims was a tradition left-inspired diplomacy in France. According to the paper, the hyper pragmatic, interventionist policies of President Francois Hollande has strayed from the tradition that characterized the rule of Géneral De Gaulle and Francois Mitterrand, even though it has given more weight to France on the international scene. President Hollande is right, argues former foreign minister Hubert Vedrine. A country which evokes values and does not defend its interests he says cannot be taken seriously.

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