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French press review 11 September 2018

As the new political season gets under way, French President Emmanuel Macron reorganises his team. Will that be enough to slow his slide in the opinion polls? How seriously should the president take the nation's politically active pensioners? And who will win the clash between the US and the International Criminal Court? Who else?

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Le Monde gives pride of place to a plan by French President Emmanuel Macron to put his own house in order.

Following a summer scandal, the so-called Benalla affair, in which a member of the presidential team appears to have used his position to obtain a diplomatic passport, an official vehicle and a gun, as well as to beat the living daylights out of a young man at a Paris protest, Macron has appointed a services manager to keep the domestic staff up to scratch.

The new man in charge is Jérôme Rivoisy and he was a classmate of Emmanuel Macron at Ena, the top French school for would-be politicians and senior civil servants.

All the president's men

Le Figaro gives front-page prominence to the same story, noting that Macron appears to be digging in, surrounding himlself with close allies in key jobs.

With seven in 10 French voters saying they feel the president has got the new political season off to a bad start, Macron, says Le Figaro, is banking on those who helped him win the top job in the first place.

Communications, the business of explaining the presidential vision to us mere mortals will be taken over, full-time, by Sylvain Fort, up to now a presidential speech writer and a key member of the original campaign team.

Le Figaro is not convinced. The right-wing paper says it's a common presidential mistake to change the spokesman when what really needs to be looked at are the policies being spoken about.

The great presidential bank grab

And that's where left-leaning Libération joins the fight, with a front-page headline accusing the president of robbing pensioners.

A dangerous thing to be doing, says Libé, since the nation's seniors are a lot more politically active than most other age groups and they were among the big supporters of Macron's Marchers in 2017.

Under Macron, according to Libération's calculations, pensions have been overtaken by inflation, and further hit by an increase in the general social charge levied on anyone with an income.

The president would reply that most pensioners are better off than the average worker, since they've paid for their homes and no longer have kids to feed, clothe and educate. But the average monthly income of the 16 million French pensioners is 1,300 euros, hardly enough for a turbocharged, gold-plated lifestyle, even if your knees were up to it.

This government, says Libé, mistakenly thinks of pensioners as among the privileged. Many of them are poor, despite having worked all their lives to finance their own retirement.

And the real profiteers, the super-rich, continue to benefit from tax breaks and other fiscal fondlements.

America warns the world against global justice

Le Monde also notes the latest attack by the United States on the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yesterday John Bolton, now a Trump advisor, having served under George W. Bush (how's that for a CV?), described the ICC as "inefficient, irresponsable and downright dangerous".

The current American president is known for his hostility to any multinational organisation which might pose a threat to US sovereignty. The United States has never recognised the court. A law voted in 2002 would even allow for military intervention to protect any American citizen at risk of being tried by the ICC.

The international tribunal is currently preparing to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by American soldiers during the war in Afghanistan.

Bolton has said that ICC judges will be banned from US soil. Court money in American banks will be frozen. And Washington will open its own legal case against the ICC, although the nature of the charges remains unclear.

We'll also, warns Bolton, take note of the names of the countries and businesses who cooperate with any inquiry by the ICC into the affairs of the United States.

The land of the free, and the home of the brave. Indeed.

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