French press review 19 December 2015


Did money paid to let Russian athletes get away with cheating end up financing the Senegalese opposition presidential campaign in 2012? Has the security reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks simply terrified the capital's schoolchildren? And what will become of Basher al-Assad under UN peace plans?


Did Russian money help Senegal's current president Macky Sall beat his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade in the 2012 election?

Dossier: War in Mali

The question arrises because of a report on the front page of this morning's centrist daily Le Monde, in which Lamine Diack, the Senegalese former head of world athletics governing body, the IAAF, is reported as having told French investigators that he asked for the money in return for covering up suspect doping cases involving Russian athletes in the months leading up to the 2013 World Championships, which were held in Moscow.

Diack says he asked for the money to help finance opponents of then-president Wade, and that Russia provided one and a half million euros to help opposition candidate, Macky Sall, who is now Senegal's president.

Both the Russian athletics federation and the Senegalese presidency have denied the accusations.

Le Monde also looks at the way the French school system has reacted in security terms to the November Paris attacks.

Click here to read more articles on Paris attacks

Since schools and teachers have been specifically named as preferred targets in the propaganda of the Islamic State armed group, the authorities have reacted with a raft of directives, circulars and emergency exercises. One hundred and fifty pages of security instructions have been sent to school principals since the Paris attacks. More are expected to follow.

In the French capital various schemes are being examined, including the increased use of video cameras, the installation of airport-style security scaners and emergency alarms. But many school managers say the chief impact of all this activity is an increase in the anxiety level of the children. Many kids are reported to have completely misunderstood the reasons for the security exercises mounted since 13 November in all Paris schools, believing that they were in real danger and not simply taking part in a simulation.

The websites of all the French papers give pride of place to the news that the UN Security Council has finally come to a consensus on the Syrian crisis.

Le Figaro says the key elements are a ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional government. Talks are supposed to open between the current authorities in Damascus and the opposition as early as next month. The UN text has nothing to say on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, still supported by Russia and China on the Security Council, in sharp contrast to the attitude of the other three permanent members, France, the US and the United Kingdom, who want Assad to go as part of any peace deal.

Both left-leaning Libération and right-wing Le Figaro look south of the Pyrenees on the eve of Spain's parliamentary elections.

Libé says the Spainsh political landscape has been com

pletely revolutionised by the emergence of new left-wing and centrist parties, born of the popular revolt against austerity, corruption and the lack of social justice. It remains to be seen if that wave of public enthusiasm will be sufficient to erode the support of traditional organisations like the People's Party and the Socialists of Psoe. And then if the policies of the emerging parties can have an impact on the Spanish dole queues, with half of the population under the age of 25 out of work.

Le Fiagro reckons that conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will scrape through on Sunday but that he'll need the support of the new centrists of the Citizens movement to form a coalition government. That might be no bad thing, says Le Figaro, and there may be a lesson for the rest of Europe, especially France, that the end of bipartisan politics does not have to result in a tragic race to nationalist extremism.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app