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What the weeklies said 25 March 2018

rfi English, Mar 25

Gaddafi's ghost haunts ex-President Sarkozy as he is charged in the Libyan cash scandal; train users contemplate their fate as the unions dig in for a long fight over President Macron's reforms; and an insight account of life in "abandoned" Mayotte ravaged by poverty and illegal immigration.

"Sarko's Libyan money"

The formal investigation of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy over suspected Libyan funding of his 2007 election campaign is the top story in the magazines this week.

"Sarkozy caught up by Gaddafi's ghost" headlines left-leaning Marianne. The magazine goes on to explain that the 63-year-old was subjected to 2 days of tough police questioning "as the judicial noose tightened around his neck".

The satirical Le Canard Enchaîné says that while Nicolas Sarkozy should console himself for being safe in the hands of judicial police, there is a strong likelihood that the investigation about “Sarko's” Libyan money will have to pass through hospitals because two of the key witness are admitted to hospitals and are unable to testify in the affair.

Le Canard names one of the pair as Franco-Algerian businessman Alexandre Djouhri who has reportedly spent two weeks in a therapeutic coma in a London hospital after suffering a heart attack. The other is Bachir Saleh a former fund manager for Gaddafi's regime who is in hospital after surviving an attempted assassination in Johannesburg.

This week's l'Express is all about this week's showdown between the unions and the government over President Emmanuel Macron's bid to shake up the French state.

The magazine says Macron wants to remove job privileges for new hires at debt-laden state railway operator SNCF, where workers have job-for-life guarantees and pension benefits that see many retire in their 50s.

According to l'Express, Macron has also pledged to cut 120,000 jobs from the five million public sector workforce, and to make greater use of merit-based pay, among others.

This led to more than 200,000 public service workers to take to the streets, in protests that left half of the country's high-speed TGV trains running, while flights, schools, day care centres, libraries and other public services such as rubbish collection were badly affected too.

Railway workers have since announced more national days of protests, twice a week over three months.

French train

Before the strikes, L'Express went to speak to train users facing a travel misery.

The magazine says that while workaholics are delighted about the extension of SNCF's fast train network, users of the old TER service linking countryside regions are furious about his plan to shut down so-called unproductive lines. The right-wing weekly holds that ordinary countryside folks see the SNCF reform as a grave error which could turn France into a two-speed economy.

Le Point urges the government to stand firm if it hopes to bring down the so-called "fortified castle of the last anti-establishment movements" in France. According to the publication, the hardline GGT Union is digging in for a fierce battle over what they perceive as a symbol of unionism, adding that it is determined to restage the crippling strikes of 1995 which caused the resignation of conservative Prime Minister Alain Juppé. 

Macron's hard sell

President Macron's approval rating down is to 37 percent according to the latest survey by the Ipsos polling group.

Le Point argues in an editorial that he will have to explain to retired workers what “Macronism” is all about as they fume about his decision to collect so-called social CSG social charges from their pensions. The levy follows the freezing of complimentary pension schemes and advantages granted to widows and widowers.

According to Le Point, Macron must make them understand that the poverty rate of the 65 to 69 year-olds is almost three times less than that of young people aged between 18 and 25 as he begins a new key stage in his term of office. 

Mayotte

The French New Observer l'Obs zooms in on the situation in the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, rocked by a month-long campaign of strikes and protests over worsening living conditions.

The weekly says the neglect felt by the territory has boiled over after an attack on a school by a gang of immigrants from the nearby non-French islands of Comoros.

The population of the island has multiplied threefold in thirty years with immigrants making up half of the 250,000-strong population.

One health worker told Le Point that the French department has become "Europe's first maternity" with some 10,000 deliveries in 2017 along, mostly by foreign mothers looking for French nationality.

Coupled with growing insecurity in the shanty towns and slums, this is driving natives of Mayotte into the hands of the far-right National Front.

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