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France

French press review 17 April 2017

media

Is France on the verge of nervous collapse? Easter religious celebrations pass off without violence. Erdogan narrowly wins the Turkish constitution-changing referendum. And Aya Hijazi is freed after three years in an Egyptian jail.

France is having a nervous breakdown. I learned that by reading the editorial in this morning's edition of Le Monde.

The reason, of course, is next Sunday's first round in the presidential election, an event which the centrist newspaper suggests has plunged the nation into a state of existential crisis.

With six days to go, the representatives of the mainstream left and right, the two big political families which have governed this country for decades, are struggling to keep up with the representatives of extremist policies . . . the hard left and the far right are no longer minor players without real political significance. This time, the two extremes have every chance of making it into the second round.

Eight of the eleven candidates want to take France out of the European Union, or put an end to the single currency.

The contenders include three Putin enthusiasts and at least two who think Syria's Bashar al Assad is not such a bad guy.

The campaign has taught voters more about family finances and vestimentary preferences than about policies. Le Monde says that's probably just as well, since most of the policies are a mixture of magic and miracle which fly in the face of even the most basic economic realities.

The centrist paper says the fault is clearly to be laid at the clay feet of previous French leaders, who have undermined public confidence in the whole political process.

And it's not clear that next Sunday will mark a turning point. Not for the better, anyway.

Easter celebrations under high security

Over at right-wing Le Figaro, the front page is devoted to an Easter Sunday celebrated in the shadow of the terrorist threat for millions of Christians in the middle east. A rare coincidence sees the Roman and Orthodox churches celebrating Easter at the same time, while the Jewish equivalent, the Passover, is also being marked. Mercifully, things appear to have passed off without additional tragedy.

In his traditional Easter message, the Roman Catholic leader Pope Francis called for peace in the middle east and in Africa where he said the impact of armed conflict was being worsened by regional famine.

What now for relations between Europe and Ankara?

Le Figaro also wonders what the result of yesterday's constitution changing referendum in Turkey will be for relations between Ankara and Europe. The right-wing paper points to an already strained situation, suggesting that the narrow victory for President Erdogan who thus sees his powers further extended, will raise all sorts of very difficult questions for a Europe dependent on Turkey to keep Syrian migrants away from Europe's borders.

Le Figaro is sure that a new era is opening, warning that the rhetoric used by Erdogan in the referendum campaign, especially against Germany, does not promise peace and tranquility.

A narrow victory which will be contested in the courts

Left-leaning Libération notes the narrow margin of Erdogan's victory, which means that nearly 50 percent of his countrymen were against the proposed changes. In Istanbul and Ankara, the changes were actually rejected. The kurdish regions in the south-east also voted "no".

The Paris daily also points to the fact that the president's leading opponents, the People's Republican Party, plan to contest the validity of the outcome in the courts. The political opposition are particularly critical of a late decision by the electoral commission to accept nearly two and a half million votes without the official stamp.

Aya Hijazi freed by a Cairo court after three years

Libé also reports yesterday freeing by a Cairo court of Aya Hijazi, the founder of a charity helping street children, who has spent the last three years in police custody.

Hijazi, her husband and six other accused were cleared on all charges of human trafficking, the sexual abuse of minors and running a charity without official approval.

The international organisation Human Rights Watch described an earlier court decision against Aya Hijazi on the same charges as "a parody of justice".

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