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French press review 30 April 2012

The fact that very few French journalists work tomorrow, International Workers' Day, means that the papers have to get in ahead of the event. This year, May Day promises to be busy, with trade unions, the far-right National Front, and out-going president, Nicolas Sarkozy, all organising rallies.

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Catholic La Croix says everyone is free to celebrate Workers' Day in their own fashion.

But the Catholic daily goes on to point out that unemployment is the chief scourge of contemporary France and that Sarkozy's attempt to use the workers' festival as a crutch for his badly limping re-election campaign risks further dividing a nation already locked into a series of oppositions like bosses-workers, public sector-private sector, employees-independents, or simply workers and the unemployed.

La Croix says France has no need of further division. There has never been a national conference or a broad consensus on the crucial question of getting people back to work.

It should be one of the central elements in the presidential debate, not just an occasion to set Nicolas Sarkozy's "false workers" against the real thing.

The front page of communist L'Humanité says "It's our day . . . these are our demands". The list is a long one, from increased salaries and better training, to economic growth, the control of the banks and the way money is invested in industry.

The communist daily's editorial distinguishes between the social progress being made at street level, and the hatred and division being fanned from "a rich sector of Paris".

L'Humanité says a big turnout at tomorrow's planned rallies will put work and workers back at the heart of the political debate, both in France and in Europe.

And the communist paper's editorial ends by saying that tomorrow's marchers can finish the job next Sunday by "getting rid of the menace that threatens the country".

Left-leaning Libération also has harsh words for the president-candidate's divisive call for French workers to forget the traditional red flag of organised labour and march instead behind the colours of the republic.

Libé
says Sarkozy wants to recreate cold war Berlin in the heart of Paris. For the left-wing paper, the right-wing candidate's campaign is coming to a chaotic end in an improvised avalanche of words, symbols and desperate crimes. "A frightening mess" according to former right wing Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin.

Right-wing Le Figaro is having none of it. This is the decisive week according to their frankly redundant main headline. Le Figaro ignores tomorrow's trade union tribulations totally, saying that the crucial confrontation is Wednesday's televised debate between Sarkozy and the socialist contender, François Hollande.

And Le Figaro continues to paint Sarkozy as the victim of a personal vendetta, a situation which has, according to the right-wing paper, enabled Hollande to ride the wave of virulent anti-Sarkozyism without having to bother too much with realistic policies or proposals. All that will end with Wednesday's debate, thunders Le Figaro, when Hollande will finally be forced into the open.

Whoever wins, on Wednesday and, more importantly, on Sunday, is going to have to face up to the fact that the state has not done well from its stock portfolio.

According to business daily Les Echos, since 2007, the value of state-owned companies like France Telecom or the gas and electricity suppliers, have plummeted to about one quarter of their levels five years ago.

Plummeting could also be the verb used to describe US-Pakistan diplomatic relations, analysed in Le Monde's weekend politics section.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

Things have not been good since the American assassination, one year ago, of Al-Qaida leader, Osama Bin Laden. But things have never really been that good, since Washington wonders to what extent Islamabad really controls the forces that matter.

The problem is a tough one, since Pakistan is nuclear armed and generally considered a hotbed of islamic fundamentalism.

The Americans need to be able to control the heat under that particular pot. And, of course, Islamabad badly needs American cash to keep the local economy afloat.

The Americans seem to be looking at Kabul as an alternative regional staging-post. Which suggests that things are really at a low ebb with Pakistan.

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