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French weekly magazines review 12 March 2017

DR

If you've already had enough of the François Fillon saga, then this week's magazines are certainly not for you.

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There's only one dish on the menu this week, and it's not particularly fresh or appetising. It's François Fillon.

Five weekly publications, five covers devoted to the conservative candidate who will probably vanish into oblivion in the first round of the French presidential election at the end of next month. Or will he?

Is the fact that he continues to dominate the political stage, and the magazine covers, an indication that Fillon has learned from the Brexit and Trump disasters, and refuses to bow to the opinion polls which suggest that he'll be lucky to finish a distant third behind the centrist Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front.

Can Fillon still win?

The main headline in L'Express asks if Fillon can still win. As always in these cases, you get a thousand pages of painstaking analysis, but no clear answer. The consensus would appear to be "in the tank, Frank".

But even L'Express's own opinion poll offers food for thought. Le Pen and Macron are practically side-by-side at 26 and 25.5 percent of first round voting intentions. Then comes Fillon on 19 percent, with the fratricidal socialist odd couple of Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon dividing the next 25 percent between them in fourth and fifth places. Game over, no contest, you might conclude? Until you see that 11 percent of those polled didn't give any indication of how they might vote.

Allowing for the plus-or-minus four point margin of error inherent in opinion polls, those 11 percent leave more than sufficient lee-way to completely reverse the top four or five placings.

Le Pen still scares a lot of people; Macron is too young and has no real political party behind him; the socialists had their chance and blew it; Mélenchon is, well, Mélenchon. Which leaves the embattled but still battling François Fillon. Don't write him off, yet.

Is Fillon dangerous?

Le Nouvel Observateur asks if Fillon is dangerous?

The question is based on his recent shift from a mainstream conservative platform towards an openly populist approach, most obviously in his call to the faithful to make a public show of their support in Paris last Sunday, and in his repeated evocation of a legal/media conspiracy against him.

Le Nouvel Obs thinks Fillon is now operating in the political space marked out by Italy's swashbuckling, law-bending Silvio Berlusconi. If he loses in April, Fillon will go down in history as the man who destroyed the Republican Party.

How Fillon survived his brush with political oblivion

Le Point says Fillon has come back from the dead, accepting that, so far at least, his miracle revival appears to be holding up.

Le Canard Enchaîné looks behind the scenes at the French Republican Party, showing how close Fillon came to disaster last Monday before finally emerging with the unanimous support of a political family unable to find anybody less bad to lead the right-wing election challenge.

Is Fillon mad?

Finally, Marianne puts Fillon nose-to-nose with Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and asks if the man who would be president is actually mad.

Marianne suggests that the French former prime minister can be put in the same boat as Rome's Nero, Uganda's Idi Amin and a vast panoply of raving lunatics who have enlivened the history books while making life a misery for their contemporaries. The question is whether power attracts the mentally unstable, or whether power turns ordinary decent dudes into slavering psychopaths.

The experts agree: Fillon is deeply determined, driven by self-belief and his Catholic faith. Those who thought of him as a coward, a man of the shadows, have been stunned to see a skilled knife-fighter in action, quietly filleting his opponents, perhaps convincing many voters that he has exactly the sort of qualities needed to drag France out of the doldrums.

François Fillon is still in the fight.

Sheep in shock vote for butcher!

I'll leave the last word to Octave Mirbeau, a French journalist who died in 1917 and is quoted in this week's Le Point.

He was asked to define democracy and replied "sheep go to the abattoir. They don't say anything, they don't hope for anything. But at least they don't vote for the butcher who is going to kill them and the buyer who will eat them. Voters are less bright than the beasts," says Octave, "more sheepish than the sheep."

Baaah!

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