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French press review 13 January 2012

A mixed bag in today's French papers as they gear up for the presidential elections in April and May with a look at who has the greatest chance of winning.

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Le Monde leads with the news that almost a third of French people agree with the ideas of the right-wing political party, the National Front.

This according to an opinion poll conducted this month. Evidently, the party has become more popular since its current leader, Marine Le Pen, a candidate in the fast approaching presidential election, took over from her father one year ago.

Le Monde describes what it calls 'the trivialisation of the ideas of the party of the extreme right' - that's a direct translation.  What I think the paper means is the increasing acceptability of their ideas. Especially among workers and young voters.

Clearly, the National Front has a comprehensive range of policies. But the headlines, if you like, are anti-immigration and France for the native born. Plus they favour dumping the euro and restoring the much lamented French franc.

As regards Madame Le Pen's electability, 36 per cent of those questioned thought that she will make it to the second round of the Presidential vote when all save the two leading candidates are eliminated. And one in four want this to happen.

At the other end of the political spectrum from the National Front, the communist daily L'Humanité, declares that there are "100 days to make a difference." That's to say until first round of voting to elect a president. The paper launches what it calls "Operation Truth" which details the positions of six candidates on all the key issues, from jobs and pensions to social services, the nuclear industry and Europe.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The political spectacle proposed by some aims to divert French people from what is essential, the paper says. It is time to elevate the debate!

Libération opts for a mischievous front page image of a cartoon of President Nicolas Sarkozy exchanging a wedding ring with a beefy, half-naked man clad in a jock-strap. "Gay marriage" says the headline. "Sarkozy tempted to say yes."

According to our sources, the paper says, the president is preparing to include homosexual marriage, more exactly "civil union", in his election campaign.

In the past,  the issue has been taboo among those on the political right. It seems a cultural revolution is underway. Not least because Sarkozy, a skilled political strategist, acknowledges Libération, aims to capture "the homosexual vote." That begs the question whether this would alienate traditional right-wing voters ?

Elsewhere, Libération notes that today is Friday the Thirteenth, regarded as an unlucky conjunction in many cultures. It's going to be a bad year for the superstitious. There are three Friday the Thirteenths in 2012. Just why back luck is attached to this day is up for dispute.

Among the more colourful is that it was on this date 700 years ago that the Knights Templar, a secretive order of Christian warriors, were slaughtered on the orders of a French king who was deeply in debt to them. A sort of medieval Eurozone crisis, perhaps.

Aujourd'hui en France leaves the campaign trail this morning and trumpets a scam said to have been perpetrated on the French nuclear energy giant, Areva. The paper asks if the group has been the victim of an immense fraud, to the tune of two and a half billion euros. The paper runs details of a confidential report which says the fraud was worked through vastly inflated costs during the search for uranium in Africa.

The front page of the Catholic daily, La Croix, is an odd mix this morning. It's top story which spills over onto pages two and three is and complains that among homeless people asking for lodging this winter only 50 per cent were accepted.

So far this winter the weather has been unseasonably clement and some emergency shelters remained closed. "Not a clement winter for the homeless," says La Croix which says increasingly numbers are dying in the street.

Also on the front page more welcome news "Winds of Change in Myanmar". The ceasefire agreed between the government and rebels belonging to the Karen ethnic minority signal an opening up to opponents of the regime. Welcome news after decades of conflict.

Finally, the business daily, Les Echos, sees signs that the debt crisis in the Eurozone is easing with Spain and Italy succeeding in borrowing more that was expected at more favourable rates of interest. The European Central Bank is keeping the euro on an even keel but is ready to intervene if necessary.

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