French weekly magazines review 19 February 2017


Domestic politics once again dominates the front covers of most of the weekly magazines. No surprise really as France moves closer towards the presidential elections which are due to take place in two rounds at the end of April and beginning of May.


Right-wing Le Point dissects the economic policies of three candidates - Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard left, Benoît Hamon for the Socialists and Marine Le Pen for the far-right National Front - and draws the same conclusion, which it uses as a headline. It describes them all as "The party of failure".

The simple reason, the magazine claims, is because, if one analyses their proposals concerning public spending and the future of the euro, they all spell bad news for France. More surprisingly, Le Point says that if one compares the proposals being put forward by arch enemies Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, they have quite a lot in common.

If elected, it says, both Mélenchon and Le Pen will issue an ultimatum to the other EU states to either accept a Europe "à la française" or face the consequences of a possible French withdrawl from the European project.

Europe under attack from both left and right

For Jean-Luc Mélenchon this would entail the end of all bugetary constraints, debt cancellation and the end of the independence of the European Central Bank and the free movement of capital between member states. For Marine Le Pen, there would be no more free exchange of capital, a referendum within six months on France’s continued membership of the EU and the reestablishmen of a domestic currency to replace the euro. Le Pen says this would give France back its independence from Brussels.

Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, doesn’t rate much better with the weekly.

Hamon, Le Point says, is ready to cross all the red lines laid down by Germany and the northern EU member states. These include the cancellation of and purchase by the European Central Bank of all debts owed by the EU’s southern nations. Hamon also wants a moratorium on the stability and growth pact.

There is also the question of his proposed universal basic income for each French person, which Le Point estimates will cost tax payers an extra 3-400 billion euros, as much as the whole of current state spending.

A week without François Fillon, almost

So what about the other two main contenders in the upcoming French elections?

Well, after weeks of dominating the front pages because of the Penelopegate scandal,  right-wing candidate François Fillon is conspicuous by his absence from this week’s magazines.

He is, however, on the front page of the satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, which was the first to break the story about his wife Penelope having a suspected fake job as his parliamentary attaché.

Since the scandal broke three weeks ago, Fillon’s opion poll ratings may have plummeted but the Republicans party candidate has said he will not stand down.

Le Canard headlines with a play on words "I am here and I will remain" to which it adds "And I am running for the Nobel Peace Price" in reference to the price paid to his wife for work she is suspected of not carrying out!

As the inquiry continues, Fillon has been pushed into third place in the preelection polls, behind Le Pen and the man on the front cover of left-leaning L’Obs this week,  under the question "Him president?", Emmanuel Macron.

What does Macron really stand for?

He may be riding high in the opinion polls and profiting from the Fillon affair but L’Obs says the time has come for Macron to put his cards on the table.

The former economy minister interests people as much as he intrigues them, writes the magazine.

He may be charismatic, talented and lyrical and this may have been enough up until now to attract a public desperate for somebody new to believe in. But the time has come for Macron to clarify his project and define his vision of France, writes L’Obs.

The ambiguity he has maintained since he launched his election campaign has reached its limits, it says.

That is because, in a bid to annoy no one, Macron has failed to clarify his position on a myriad of subjects. For example, it says, he is not a Socialist but a progessive, even though he has still not defined what he means by progress. And the magazine says it is hard to know what Macron really thinks about GM crops, shale gas or the wealth tax. But this tactic can work no longer and Macron now needs to clarify his position at the risk of upsetting some of his potential voters.

Who pulls the strings in contemporary France?

Right-wing L’Express devotes its front page to a completely different subject - "France under the influence" in reference to what it describes as the dangerous liaisons Paris maintains with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

L’Express says France’s universal culture is admired around the world. But the country is being brought down by a weak economy that makes the country both vulnerable and desirable. Many are keen to take advantage of this situation to extend their inflence, it warns. The magazine suggests this is likely to be one of the major challenges facing the new president when he or she is elected in May.

What next for François Hollande?

And on the subject of presidents, L’Express has a job proposal for François Hollande once he leaves office in May. That of the head of the European Commission in place of Jean-Claude Juncker.

In its editorial the magazine says Juncker and Hollande have several things in common.

Neither is ready to cling to power and both have announced they will not be seeking a new mandate. It says they have also both been overtaken by a political situation which they feel unable to solve.

But there is one major difference between the two, says the magazine’s editorialist Christophe Barbier. Whereas Hollande announced his decision to stand down 100 days before he was due to leave office, Juncker has announed his decision 1,000 days before the end of his mandate. Barbier says the European head's decision was an error that will now deprive Juncker of any authority to carry out the rest of his duties.

So, what if Hollande were to succeed him in May? After all, Hollande has the right qualifications. He is a disciple of Jacques Delors and has been hard on Britain. History, writes L’Express, is sometimes only efficient when it is also ironic

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