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French press review 17 October 2018

The French government has finally been reshuffled. But nothing is going to change. Is this good news or bad news?


France has a new cabinet, but government policy remains the same. That's according to the president, Emmanuel Macron, who was on national TV last night and is all over this morning's front pages.

There'll be no sudden swerves, no change of direction, says the French leader. The new ministerial team will continue to work along the lines laid down at Macron's arrival in the top job in May, 2017.

Le Monde notes that the new government does not quite meet the standards promised by candidate Macron before his election.

For example, there are 18 men and 17 women in the new squad, not far from superficial parity. However. Only ten of the 17 women are full ministers, the others are juniors. Full ministers attend all cabinet meetings; juniors are called in only when their areas of responsibility are on the agenda. And only two women occupy the so-called "sovereign ministries," Nicole Belloubet in justice, and Florence Parly in defence.

Candidate Macron also promised that he'd appoint a full-time full minister responsible for women's rights. This week he forgot. Women get only a junior ministry.

And the parity between the sexes becomes ever more superficial the further down the chain of command you go: while the new ministerial teams have yet to be finalised, two-thirds those of the out-going government were directed by men.

The more things change, the more they remain the same

Right-wing daily Le Figaro sees the reshuffle as a gesture of confidence and determination by a president who has had to face doubt and criticism over the past four months.

The changes are far from simply cosmetic, but are not intended to announce any sharp change of policy. Emmanuel Macron, says Le Figaro, continues to present himself as the spearhead of the European movement against the rise of populism, nationalism and isolationism. "Those who don't see what's going on around us are sleepwalkers," he told last night's television audience. Adding, "I can't accept such an attitude."

Le Figaro's editorial is harshly critical. Everyone can see, the right-wing paper's leader writer assures us, that these latest nominations will change nothing fundamental.

Worse, says the editorial, in naming Christophe Castaner to the interior ministry, the president has allowed himself to be swung by his friendship for one of the founding members of the Republic on the Move party, rather than by a concern for the experience needed to lead the fight against terrorism, ensure everyday security, boost flagging police morale, reform Islam, re-organise the electoral map. To name just some of the more pressing matters awaiting the new man at the interior.

The most obvious lesson from the past two weeks while we have been waiting for this new government to take shape, says Le Figaro, is that the president is a very isolated individual. The editorial is headlined "Solitude". Macron has built this administration around his own personality. The entire edifice has been compared to a pyramid resting precariously on its point. This latest reorganisation, says Le Figaro, does not make the structure look any more stable.

Mélenchon mimics a dead French king

Left-leaning Libération gives the front-page honours to something else entirely.

Yesterday, the police entered the premises of the far left France Unbowed party run by Jean-Luc Mélenchon so that they could seize documents needed for two investigations, one into the reality of Mélenchon's party's employment of European parliamentary assistants; the other into the way the man financed his last presidential campaign.

Mélenchon was in his element, joining other members of his party to prevent the police action. He harangued the officers attempting to keep him out of his own office. "Do you know who I am? I am the Republic." But his martyrdom may have put him on the wrong side of the law, suggest Libé. And Mélenchon's echo of Louis XIV's famous pronouncement before the Paris parliament, "I am the State," may also come back to haunt him.

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