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French press review 28 February 2011


There's a lot of violence on this morning's front pages.

Right-wing Le Figaro casts the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a top judo practitioner, struggling against a heavier opponent, trying to turn his difficulties to his own advantage, while communist l'Humanité has the poor man as a badly bashed boxer, saying that he appeared to be "out on his feet" on national television last night, incapable of hauling himself up to the level of world events.

Leftist Libération says the rank and file of the presidential UMP party is on the brink of revolution, and that Sarkozy may not be the first-choice right-wing candidate for the 2012 presidential election.

All the excitement follows yesterday's re-organisation of the French cabinet.

Michèle Alliot-Marie has been under pressure at Foreign Affairs, and that Brice Hortefeux has been less than a riotous success at the Interior Ministry. All this has been having a negative effect on the popularity of the president himself.

"Sarkozy tries to kick-start the cabinet" is how the normally sober business daily, Les Echos, summarises the weekend reshuffle.

Libération is not impressed. The paper's editorial says Sarkozy has finally woken up to the implications of the wave of revolt sweeping the Arab world, but that he's weeks too late. And Libé wonders whether changing the names of the ministers is going to make any difference to the basic policy, in the realms of diplomacy and domestic security.

Le Figaro gives pride of place to the man who has been reorganising the deckchairs. The front page of the pro-government paper has the president himself urging voters not to be afraid of the impact of changes in the Arab world on France … those changes do, indeed, pose challenges for Europe, menaced by a flood of refugees from north Africa, but France has reacted by appointing new ministers to the key posts. So, that's that sorted.

Le Monde points out that this is the seventh government team since Sarkozy's election, and that the last cabinet was named just three months ago.

That's not the only bad news for the French president this morning; Le Monde looks at the likelihood that the various revolutions and near civil wars currently wracking north Africa will force up oil prices, and that won't be good for economies like the French one, struggling to emerge from the deep depression provoked by the financial crisis. If oil prices go up by just 10 dollars, says Le Monde, world growth will decline by nearly half a per cent.

Speaking of oil prices, Libya's mad gaffer, Colonel Kadhafi, has a real stranglehold on the European psyche at the moment, threatening to shut off the oil supply at the same time as he forces thousands of refugees to cross the Mediterranean in search of safety in places like France, Spain and Italy.

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