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French weekly magazines review 4 December 2016

DR

Through no fault of their own - most of the French weeklies missed the week's top story - the announcement by Socialist President François Hollande that he will not run for a second term in office in the elections next spring.

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By the time Hollande spoke to the nation on television on Thursday evening, most of the weeklies had been put to bed, that's industry jargon for done and dusted.

Nonetheless, most of the cover stories relate to the jostling, squabbling, back biting, progress, or lack of it, among candidates and wannabes on the long and winding road to the Elysée Palace.

Left-leaning Marianne, often the most eclectic of the mags, has the busiest cover; with Russian President at centre stage beneath the headline "Putin Mania."

He looks dapper and well groomed, cool, calm and collected, with an icy gaze and raised pistol in his hand. You'd be forgiven for mistaking the image for a publicity still for the latest James Bond movie. Of course, Putin is a former KGB agent, so picture isn't so far fetched.

Around Putin, this is a Photoshop assemblage not a snap from real life you understand, are US President elect Donald Trump, François Fillon - the Presidential candidate of France's conservative Republican party and Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right National Front. The latter pair are widely expected to reach the second round of the French Presidential poll and one of them (probably) will climb the greasy poll to power.

What's the story? Well, it explores "Why Putin drives them all crazy."

Under Putin, who like 007 has nerves of steel and doesn’t blink, Russia is back on the international stage, Marianne explains; from Ukraine to Syria and beyond. We’re still some way from a return to the mighty “Evil Empire” of the Soviet era.

“The United States has 800 bases in 70 countries,” Marianne reminds us. “Militarily, Russia isn’t in the same league.”

What's worrying Russophobes, those who fear or dislike Russia, Marianne says, is that the next President of the United States and the next likely President of France are all together too matey with Vlad.

For them, those who voted for Fillion in polls to choose his party's candidate for President did so on the orders of Moscow. Which is about as believable as most conspiracy theories.

It is true that Fillion and Putin are on first name terms, having worked closely together when each served as Prime Minister. What's more, they share a passion for extreme sport. As if that wasn't enough, both are socially conservative and opposed to same sex marriage. Fillon is close to the Roman Catholic Church and Putin is close to the Russian Orthodox clergy. Enough said.

As for Marine Le Pen, Marianne says there is what it calls "A lasting passion" between the National Front and Russia.

These relationships might change the geopolitical landscape, a columnist writes.

And, if Russians accept Putin's authoritarianism, it's in the hope of having their country respected.

With changes at the top in Washington, Paris and elsewhere and western leaders less hostile to Putin and Russia than their predecessors, it's looking increasingly likely that Russians will get what they wish for.

The main cover story of l'Express is headlined "La Chienlit" - which usually translates, politely at least, as "the masquerade." There's a more scatological interpretation. But this is a family show so you'd best look it up on-line. To cut a long story short, it's about the knife-fight - metaphorical for now - at the top of the Socialist party.

“Hollande-Valls. Who will kill the other?” I think we know the answer to that one already.

L'Obs has on its cover Jean-Luc Mélenchon the hard-left contender for President. Why, one wonders. In the interests of balance, perhaps.

Last time around, in 2012, Mélenchon took fourth place with 11 per cent of the vote, trailing behind François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Marine Le Pen. His chance of winning in 2017 are about as good as those of Nicolas Sarkozy who, as you may have heard, is no longer in the race. So, I think the Obs need not detain us this week.

Last but not least, le Point, features the conservative candidate François Fillon; a more logically choice given that he's tipped for the top.

The magazine's editorial, by Franz-Olivier Giesbert a well respected journalist, offers “7 reasons + 1 to love François Fillion.” We don't have time to detail all of them here, but among them is “the intention to speak with Vladimir Putin and reintroduce Russia into the geopolitical game.”

Le Point looks to be among those who prefer “Jaw Jaw” to “War War.”

Bon weekend.

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