French Press Review 06 Jan 2014

The political credibility of French president, François Hollande, the failure of the French mission to the Central African Republic, and  the weather in the western French region of Brittany dominate the front page stories of the French dailies.

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Business daily LesEchos says the next three months are going to be absolutely crucial for the political credibility of French president, François Hollande.

Reforming the tax sector, boosting employment and saving as much of the industrial funiture as possible are the key items on the presidential agenda.

Hollande will be two years in the job next May and, if it's too much to expect that he'll be able to deliver on his electoral promise to get the country back on its feet by then, at least, says Les Echos, he'll have to show that his policies are moving in the right direction.

Which is where Le Figaro joins the discordant duet: "Can Hollande change political direction?" asks the right-wing paper, noting a recent shift in the presidential tone from socialist to social-democrat or even social-liberal.

Since putting the rhetoric into practice would involve reducing taxation, cutting expenditure, attacking abuses in the social security sector, Le Figaro is enthusiastic but sceptical.

Coming just weeks before the municipal elections, the changes may not be enough to save the socialists from a mid-term hammering, and they may be too much for some party members who feel the president is losing touch with basic left-wing principles.

Then there's catholic La Croix and left-leaning Libération, both looking at French military involvement in Africa, specifically Mali and the Central African Republic.

Libé says the failure of the French mission to the CAR has raised the question of the utility, even the justification, of such initiatives. Even Mali, initially saluted as a great success, has proved to be beyond the reach of the small French force on the ground.

The left-wing paper quotes the Djibouti writer Abdourahmane Waberi to the effect that Paris has frequently chosen to prop up unpopular regimes, completely misunderstanding the roots of local anger, and that explains why so many military interventions have so badly boomeranged.

La Croix says peace in the Central African Republic is no closer now than it was one month ago, at the start of the French military mission, with too few troops facing too many enemies.

Le Monde offers a useful catch-up list of news items you might have missed over the holiday period . . . Michael Schumacher's skiing accident is mentioned, as are the deaths of Portuguese football star Eusabio, singer Phil Everley, and the inventor of the AK47 assault rifle, Mikael Kalashnikov. The first mechanical human heart was installed by a team of French surgeons, and French soldiers tried to restore calm in the Central African Republic.

The people of Latvia, lemming-like, rushed over the edge and into the Eurozone on January 1, becoming the 18th nation to join the monetary mayhem and perhaps begin the move from PIGS to PIGLETS, as Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia will probably, despite their best efforts, end up helping Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain to give monetary union an increasingly bad name.

It rained a lot in the western French region of Brittany, but there's no mention of the mountains of snow and almost Martian temperatures being experienced in the north-western United States.

No mention, either, of the fact that Australia's cricketers knocked the stuffing, the pudding, and the mince pies out of England, winning all five tests to retain the Ashes.

Le Monde also reports that the Tunisian Constituent Assembly managed over the weekend to agree 12 articles of the new constitution, which has a total of 146 such articles.

Among the items already ticked off, a guarantee of freedom of conscience and a rejection of Islam as a source of law, two questions which have been controversial, to say the best of them, since the dust settled on Tunisia's revolution.

And the controversy may not be over just yet. Article six of the constitution makes the State the guarantor of freedom of conscience, but also gives it a role in "protecting the sacred" and describes the nation as the "guardian of religion". The Tunisian Human Rights League says that's a lot of guaranteeing, protecting and guarding for one article, without any clear indication what exactly is being talked about. Critics suggest that such a lack of clarity could lead to interpretations that might ultimately threaten individual freedom.

Especially since the ruling Ennahda Party is islamist and has insisted that the new constitution names islam as the state religion.

The Tunisian deputies have until January 14, the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising, to agree the remaining 134 articles of the constitution, AND vote a new electoral law.

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