French press review 19 March 2018

Vladimir Putin hammers all comers in the Russian super-heavyweight category. What's happening on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte? The plight of women raped by regime forces in Syria. And another strike in prospect at Air France.


It's hardly news, given that we've been predicting the outcome for weeks, but Le Monde is happy to give the top of the front page to Russian President Vladimir Putin, reelected yesterday with an overwhelming 77 percent of votes in what was theoretically just the first round.

The opposition is so completely flattened, there won't be any need for a second visit to the polling stations.

That's Vlad's best performance in four elections. "We're going to start working," he assured supporters near the Kremlin last night, which might seem a bit thin as a promise from a man who's been at the helm for the past 18 years. What's he been doing up to now?

Le Monde suggests that turnout could be marginally higher than in 2012 when 65 percent of voters took part.

Hell in an Indian Ocean paradise

Right-wing Le Figaro looks to the French Indian Ocean département of Mayotte and finds an island overwhelmed by illegal immigration and with the rule of law close to breaking point.

The basic problem, according to Le Figaro, is insecurity in the face of massive immigration from the neighbouring, much poorer, Comoros Islands. Food, fuel and antibiotics are in short supply after nearly one month of roadblocks and riots. Vigilante groups have started handing in suspected illegal immigrants to the police.

The minister responsible for the French overseas territories, Annick Girardin, has promised a rapid announcement on the reorganisation in depth of state services on the island.

Rape as a weapon of war in Syria

The front-page story in left-leaning Libération is devoted to the testimony of Syrian army officers which, the paper claims, prove that the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has knowingly used sexual violence as a military technique, intended to humilitate rebel forces and propagate state terror.

Since 2011 the rape of women in rebel-held areas has been virtually official policy, the aim being to punish civilian collaborators with anti-regime forces.

In addition to the appalling physical and psychological trauma suffered by all rape victims, Syrian victims frequently suffer the additional penalty of rejection by the own families, repudiation by their husbands, Libé points out.

With legal action before the International Criminal Court unlikely, because Syria is not an ICC member state and the Russian veto will prevent any initiative from the UN Security Council, victim support groups want to see international arrest warrants issued against alleged perpretators, to at least begin to break down the wall of silence which surrounds these crimes.

Then, says Libé, the problem will be to find women who are prepared to testify, knowing that, by coming forward to denounce their attackers, they thus publicly identify themselves as rape victims and so risk being ostracised by the own families.

Air France unions ask for more money

Financial daily La Tribune notes the unfortunate coincidence of tomorrow's launch by the French government of an air transport round-table to help the sector deal with increasing international competiton and the threat by 10 trade unions at national carrier Air France to go on strike for a six percent wage increase.

As La Tribune mildly summarises the situation, it is poor timing to come looking for a huge salary increase at the same time as Air France is asking the government to cough up an additional 600 million euros to cover its environmental surcharges.

Air France made an operating profit of 588 million euros last year, more than half of which would be swallowed up by the six percent pay increase demanded by the unions. They say their members have not had a salary increase for the past six years.

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