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French press review 17 November 2017

There are evergrowing suspicions that Russia is and has been manipulating the outcome of Western elections and referendums. UK Prime Minister Theresa May warns Rusian President Vladimir Putin to be a good chap. Or else. Why is Saad Hariri, the man who recently tried to resign as Lebanese prime minister, coming to Paris? And were yesterday's marches against French government reforms a success?


What if contemporay democracy was really being run from the basement of the Kremlin?

That's the question you might be inclined to ask when you look at the top of today's edition of the centrist French daily, Le Monde.

"Moscow accused of interfering in Brexit referendum," reads one headline.

Then there's "Madrid accuses Russia over Catalan vote."

To say nothing of the way in which various Senate and House committees investigating the election victory of Donald Trump keep turning over stones with Russian worms under them.

According to Ciaran Martin, the boss of the UK's cybersecurity service, Moscow is trying to bring down the international order.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the fat cats stuffing themselves at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London that Russia "is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions."

The woman who is not to be weaponised went on to shake Vladimir Putin to his fur-lined socks: "I have a very simple message for Russia," the prime minister continued. "We know what you are doing. You will not succeed."

Vlad has been warned!

What's been happening to Saad Hariri?

Saad Hariri, the man who resigned as Lebanese prime minister two weeks ago, is expected in Paris tomorrow. His resignation was refused by Lebanon's President Michel Aoun and Hariri spent 12 days under effective house arrest in Riyadh.

It's a complicated story. Le Figaro says it all comes down to a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hariri has dual Saudi-Lebanese nationality. In his televised resignation speech, which was broadcast from Saudi Arabia, he castigated Iran and the Shia-Muslim militia Hezbollah for creating a state within the state and making Lebanon ungovernable.

Lebanese media immediately decided that Hariri was acting under the orders of the Saudis.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the same thing, accusing Riyadh of holding Hariri against his will and of obliging him to resign.

Lebanon's Sunni-Muslim community, from whose ranks the prime minister must be chosen, also want Hariri back, mainly because he has managed to keep the riven local political scene from exploding.

Le Figaro says the Saudis are keen to counter the power and influence of Hezbollah, the Party of God, because of its links to Iran, especially since the ambitious Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to show his domestic and regioinal enemies that nobody kicks sand in his face.

Bin Salman is using the Hariri situation in an effort to bring down the Lebanese government, feeling that Hezbollah has become too influential, Le Figaro says, adding that it's a risky strategy which could backfire and further strengthen the hand of both Hezbollah and Tehran.

The right-wing paper's editorial says it's another diplomatic victory for Emmauuel Macron. The holding of the prime minister of a soverign state was beginning to cause problems for the Saudis. Sending him home via Paris saves Prince Mohamed from sanction and embarrassment.

Tragically, it will do nothing to resolve Lebanon's tortured political landscape.

The republic marches against the Marching Republic

What happened yesterday at the nationwide protests against government reforms?

Left-leaning Libération says it was a bit of a flop, with just 130,000 protestors. That's about 100,000 fewer than the last march in September.

The trade unions say, never mind the numbers, look at the composition of the crowd.

The day of inaction was called by the country's biggest union, the CGT. But practically the entire alphabet of other labour groups - FO, CFDT, CFE-CGC, CFTC - were represented, despite the decision by some of their central committees not to participate.

Many people showed up simply to mark their disapproval of Macron's "government for the rich". One teacher quoted in Libé says the turnout is not important. "No protest is going to put the government into reverse. I'm here to show that there's another France, not a nation of lazy no-goods but a union of concerned citizens."

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