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French weekly magazines review 26 August 2018

Revue de presse des hebdomadaires
Revue de presse des hebdomadaires DR

With the end of the August holidays in sight and "la rentrée" (the return to work) about to begin, the weeklies spotlight Emmanuel Macron, asking what's gone wrong for France's young president . . . and what happens next.

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A picture is said to be worth a thousand words and the same might be said of the witty, iconoclastic cartoons that often grace the cover of left-leaning Marianne.

This week's image is of a small, grimacing man bent double beneath the weight of an enormous file-filled satchel strapped to his back.

Like a picture, a cartoon usually needs a few words to help us understand the who, the what, the when and the where. The words are "Bonne Rentrée Jupiter!", which translates as "Have a great return to work, Jupiter!"

"Jupiter" is the nickname the French press attaches to President Emmanuel Macron, who once said he wanted to rule as a “Jupiter” - the king of gods in ancient Roman mythology - operating above the political hurly-burly as he delivers thunderbolt judgements and instructions.

Macron doesn't look at all godlike in the cartoon and there are succinct clues on the cover on what's inside the satchel that's making him stagger beneath its weight.

Marianne summarises his to-do list, the state of play and the likely outcomes. Some speak for themselves. "Budget impossible." "Growth weak." "Poverty plan empty." "Pensions reform weighed down." "The right buoyed." "European elections, poor start."

Headaches and scandals

Other need some explanation. "Kohler tangled." Alexis Kohler, secretary-general of the Elysée presidential palace, is accused of assorted misdeeds including ties with the shipowner MSC, run by members of his family. "Benalla bogged down." Alexandre Benalla, who served as Macron's senior bodyguard, was filmed beating up a young protester at May Day demonstrations in Paris while wearing a police officer's crash helmet. The Elysée is accused of a cover-up.

Inside the magazine, Marianne devotes eight pages to the whys and wherefores of this laundry list of headaches and scandals.

Its conclusion : "Emmanuel Macron doesn't want to change anything; not his economic policies, not his government, not his party."

Marianne says "This inflexibility is met by declining growth, the repercussions of the Benalla affair and the first cracks in his political machine."

Macron returned to Paris this week from a vacation at Fort de Brégançon, the presidential retreat on an islet off the French Mediterranean coast. Before his stay he raised eyebrows by demanding that a swimming pool be constructed there. Marianne can't resist a caustic jibe off the back of this. A sound bubble above a sketch of the Elysée Palace complains, "What's missing here is a ski slope."

Must Macron change?

The conservative weekly l'Express echoes some of Marianne's thoughts and its cover story promises to tell us "Why Macron must change."

"A return {to work] under pressure," it declares. For l'Express the headline problems are the Benalla affair (him again), a less favourable political climate, and weaker economic forecasts. "To continue his programme, Emmanuel Macron must also reform himself," the paper says.

Among other things, l'Express suggests he consult more widely before making decisions; beyond the tiny cabal of his Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the aforementioned secretary-general of the Elysée, Alexis Kohler, and Benoît Ribadeau-Dumas, a former Zodiac Aerospace executive who is the PM's chief of staff.

In winning office, Macron upset the apple cart of French politics. But the former banker is not a very people-friendly politician. One source tells the magazine "One cannot lead a country only with results. It's also necessary to seduce and convince."

What's cooking?

L'Obs considers "What Macron is cooking up for us." From the smörgåsbord being assembled in the Elysée kitchen, the magazine selects "pensions, unemployment, poverty, taxes and hospitals."

The paper says Macron intends to continue his efforts to 'transform the country. "But," L'Obs goes on, "the situation is going to the dogs and the Benalla affair [him again] has undermined Macron's authority." It wonders if he can revive the economy and establish a welfare state for the 2!st century.

L'Obs doesn't really answer the question. Instead it says the economic slowdown came before Macron's reforms could take effect, which has complicated things. The magazine quotes Patrick Arbus, a respected French economist who said "Macron is not responsible for sluggish growth." The weekly seems to think that lets the president off the hook. Though I wouldn't bet on it.

The doctor will see you now

Finally, Le Point devotes a mind-numbing 71 pages to hospitals and clinics. Rankings, Specialities. Page after congested page of statistics. Bedtime reading for hypochondriacs, perhaps. I doubt many others will give it a second glance.

 

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