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French press review 20 September 2013

The big story is Sunday’s legislative elections in Germany.

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Le Figaro predicts the triumph of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. The right-wing newspaper publishes an OpinionWay survey showing 56 per cent of French voters would back Merkel’s CDU party if they had a vote in Germany.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The poll shows a massive 84 per cent of French citizens having a positive image of Merkel’s Germany with 63 per cent wishing that France should copy the German economic model.

Les Echos isn’t sure Merkel’s unassailable lead in the polls can be transformed into actual votes come Sunday and is  betting on an uneasy marriage between the CDU and the opposition Social Democratic Party. For the economic newspaper, Europe is waiting to find out who Merkel will choose to govern with - the Social Democrats or the liberal FDP.

While left-leaning Libération agrees that Merkel will win a third consecutive term, it sees shortcomings in the economic successes associated with her rule. Libé believes that Germany faces a time-bomb, the risk of becoming the old man of Europe due to the decline of its population.

According to the paper, other challenges awaiting the country after Sunday’s vote are energy problems after the closure of all nuclear power plants in 2022, growing inequalities, immigration and the rise of right-wing extremism.

Aujourd’hui en France paints portraits of Merkel’s two Germanys, the economic miracle standing in stark contrast with hard living conditions. A full quarter of Germany’s population earns a gross salary of 9.54 euros per hour, while unemployment benefits stand at a meagre 382 euros per month.

L’Humanité says that 16 per cent of Germans live below the poverty line. The Communist Party daily highlights the ordeal of 900 low-paid workers at an affiliate of the prosperous car-tyre giant Continental outside Frankfurt. The owners are threatening to close the plant and relocate to eastern Europe if the workers refuse to put in three extra hours of work for the same pay.

Aujourd’hui en France closes in on the job market here in France, specifically workers being paid cash in hand with social security claiming it is facing a shortfall of 18.5 billion euros in contributions every year due to undeclared employment. One group says the phenomenon has worsened steadily since 1986 with women constituting 90 per cent of documented fraudsters.

Aujourd’hui en France reports that the social security fund has set up a special fraud-busting unit on the internet to track down companies recruiting workers whom they do not declare to the authorities. Defaulters face 150,000 euros in penalties and up to three years in prison if caught.

The main French dailies welcome the presence of French President François Hollande at Thursday’s investiture ceremonyu for Mali’s new leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bamako on Thursday.

Libération says Hollande was definitely pleased with himself after the French Serval operation foiled an attempt by Al-Qaeda-backed separatists to set up an Islamist state in the north of Mali.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

For Le Figaro, the popularity that Hollande found in Bamako was a welcome break from the political woes facing him at home.

Aujourd’hui en France says a son of President Boubacar Keita was also major subject of attraction at Thursday’s big event in Bamako. His name is Karim, just like Karim Wade the tycoon son of ex-Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade who is alleged to have amassed an estimated billion euros during his father’s rule.

Aujourd’hui en France quotes local observers saying that anyone wishing to become a minister had to pass through the young ambitious and gluttonous Wade Keita. According to the paper, many in Bamako fear he could become “Mali’s own Karim Wade”.

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