What the weeklies said 9 April 2017


With the first round of the presidential election just a fortnight away, the weeklies are clearly allocating a fair amount of space to that … but that’s not all.

Perhaps in need of some light relief and rejuvenation, the centrist review L’Express carries a picture of the writer and general wise man, Jean d’Ormesson on a Warhol-like background of pop art colours and the title “He gives us lessons of youth”.

Ironic perhaps given d’Ormesson is 91 – or as the magazine puts “he’s no spring chicken” – but not so, given he exudes such a quality of eternal youth and exuberance, and is clearly seen as a sage on many subjects as a distinguished academician.

“Gaiety and hope never failed him”, continues L’Express referring to him as the “favourite nonagenarian of the French”.

In the interview d’Ormesson nonetheless “merrily refutes” the adjective of optimist, insisting he’s “not at all optimistic” but rather a jolly chap.

The master thinker in fact says little about the election and its line-up of candidates other than ruling “One cannot compare epochs”.

And of course he remains jovial about the future, whatever the outcome on April 23rd, and thereafter.

From Kim Jong-nam to edgy Swiss

Other than what it refers to as “the presidency of all betrayals”, L’Express turns its attentions to a mixed bag of concerns and novelties, from investigations into “a new delinquency” and “the new art of conversation”, to a story tracing the footsteps of Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of the North Korean leader, a report on “the Swiss malaise” with its efforts at direct democracy, and a probe into what killed the Neanderthal.

Other magazines do turn their attentions seriously to the hotter than hot presidential race, and its main contenders.

Left wing L’Obs jumps a fair bit ahead of the eight ball with a pensive cover photo of the young technocrat centrist, Emmanuel Macron, who’s currently leading the polls pretty much neck and neck with far right leader Marine Le Pen, and the title, “With whom could be govern?”

Enough of the hypotheticals? Unfortunately not …

A guess at a Macron government

In the case of a victory in the presidential race, how would the former French Economy Minister form a majority government? The magazine asks. How could he pass his reforms? What position would he give to the friends of François Bayrou – the influential centrist with whom he has formed an alliance – and to the personalities of the Socialist Party, and his right-wing supporters?

“This is not the least of the contradictions” of Macron’s campaign L’Obs insists, and Macron himself does not fail to recognize it.

“I have been hearing comments for several weeks on whether or not we would have a majority to govern,” the leader of the young and ambitious En Marche movement said last week.

“As to that paradox, let me lift the lid,” he said, adding “one can’t expect to have problems with daily rallies and political defections at the same time be at the head of a movement where the ability to form a government goes unquestioned.”

So chaos as usual…

To each candidate their political hero

The financial magazine Le Point also prefers to stick to the election as subject with a cover photo of François Fillon, “Fillon facing himself”.

Can he still win? Asks Le Point. He has now just two weeks to undo the harm done and extinguish doubts circulating in France but also in his party it concludes.

Inside, the somewhat beleaguered former favourite, centre-right candidate for the presidency, “surrenders” as the review puts it, to a “crash-test” interview with renowned journalist and political author Franz-Olivier Giesbert.

Fillon’s prospects have been dramatically dented by the “fake jobs” row, which he dismisses as a witch hunt.

On another, and final point, it notes each candidate has their historical hero – a famous French figure.

It cites a report in the monthly history magazine Historia in which each candidate was asked to choose his or her mentor in French history.

For Marine Le Pen it is the 17th century statesman and cardinal, Richelieu – Louis XIII’s chief minister in 1624.

For Macron, the great writer and Les Misérables author Victor Hugo, while François Fillon curiously cites the influential conservative politician and persuasive orator Philippe Séguin, not so historic, for he died in 2010.

Nonetheless for Fillon he remained a “lion of the French Republic,” a mentor from whom he was “obviously seeking to find the strengths to hold up in the face of adversity” deems Le Point.

As to whether the candidates learnt anything from that history, we will have to wait until election day.