French press review 12 April 2011

5 min

Côte d'Ivoire dominates this morning's front pages. Positions range from the simple headline statement in business daily Les Echos, "Game over for Laurent Gbagbo" to the implicitly critical "France ousts Gbagbo" on the front page of left-leaning Libération, or the harsh condemnation offered by communist daily, L'Humanité, where the headline reads something like "Colonial France retakes Abidjan".

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The communist paper explicity says that France by far exceded the terms of its obligation to protect civilians as mandated by the UN.

Only right-wing Le Figaro takes a positive view of events in the Ivorian capital, with a headline reading "A victory for France and the United Nations".

Catholic La Croix looks forward, wondering how Côte d'Ivoire can emerge from a decade of Gbagbo rule, and two near civil wars. It's not going to be easy is the simple, unoptimistic summary.

The royal wedding across channel continues to claim front-page space. Le Figaro wonders about one of the 1,900 people who've been invited.

She's the wonderfully named Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, and, with a name like that, can be depended upon to hold her teacup correctly. What is interesting about the very lovely Isabella is that she's one of Prince William's ex-girlfriends.

He's invited no fewer than four of his former girleens. Kate Middleton has, herself, invited two former boyfriends. She's also sent invitations to her butcher, the Indian man who runs her local grocery and the owner of her local pub.

Le Monde has an article on the wedding too, under the headline "It's Dallas, Windsor-style, and they love it". The '"they" in question are the British public, who are reportedly delighted with the whole fancy-dress show.

Not so Peter Thatchell, the man who tried to have Robert Mugabe arrested for alleged human rights offences. He - that's Thatchell, not Mugabe - says the monarchy is "based on elitism, privilege and heredity, and is completely incompatible with democracy".

Le Monde also reports that the shareholders of the top French companies are beginning to wake up. Forty billion euros will be paid to shareholders by the 40 leading operations on the Paris stock exchange. Which is not too bad in these harsh times of crisis, chaos and collapse.

But the unfortunate employees won't see a centime of a salary increase, and will be lucky to keep their jobs. The president of the republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, another man who will be lucky to keep his job, has called for more equality. If the shareholders get a big handout, why not a little handout for the employees.

Far from worrying about the little people who actually create the profits which they then rake in, that shareholders are far more concerned about the bad image created by the ridiculous salaries and benefits paid to the men who run the companies.

The Socialist Party has promised to bring the fat cats back down to earth, limiting golden handshakes to two years of salary, and making sure the main men get no more than 20 times what is earned by the rank and file. And this is the land of freedom, brotherhood and equality.

Le Monde also writes about the official advice being given to police officers as they start enforcing the new laws forbidding the covering of the face in public places, the famous ban on the muslim niqab.

Officers are reminded that the law applies only in streets, public spaces and official buildings, but the police are warned to show extreme discretion close to places of worship.

This because the law watchdog, the Constitutional Council, has warned that the new rules are not legally applicable close to such places of worship. But it's not clear whether that means churches and synagogues, or just mosques.

Yesterday's arrests took place outside the Catholic cathedral of Notre Dame, so we can expect to see those cases very shortly before the courts. Neither the law, nor public harmony, are likely to emerge enhanced.

Bob Dylan was recently performing in Saigon, now Ho-Chi Minh City, according to Le Monde. But he did not sing either of his classic protest anthems, "The times they are a-changin" or "Blowin' in the wind", perhaps because of fears that the local authorities might find the lyrics a touch too suggestive.

The young Vietnamese who went along to see the 70-year-old legend say they have no complexes about the American war in Vietnam, long over before many of them were born. The new generation insists on its right to live in the present.

One concert-goer interviewed by Le Monde says with admirable simplicity: "We lived under Chinese domination for a thousand years. Then we were colonised by the French. And then the Americans arrived. We've seen it all. But at least the French and Americans apologised for what they did. I've met people in China who told me that some day soon they'll be back, to take us over again."

Against that sort of background, you can understand that an aging rockstar from Duluth, Minnesota, is not something to get too excited about.

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