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French press review 24 March 2014

The French local elections dominate the front pages this morning.

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Centrist paper Le Monde predicted it all in its weekend edition, published at lunchtime on Saturday, before a single ballot had been cast in the first round of the French local elections.

"François Hollande risks a slap on the wrist from voters," was the dire headline, with warnings that a poor turnout and a strong showing by the extreme right Front National were the other worrying possibilities.

And so it came to pass.

"Slapped on the wrist!" is the headline in popular Aujourd'hui en France, over a photo of the French president on his way to cast his own vote.

Right-wing Le Figaro says the current administration has been "rejected" by the electorate.

Communist L'Humanité says the crucial question is how to get voters off their arses for next Sunday's second round: nearly 39 per cent of the electorate failed to show up yesterday, a sad all-time record.

Also record, also sad, are the advances made by the Front National. The right-wing extremists who already have one mayor elected, accounted for 7 per cent of yesterday's victories, and are well placed to force some humiliating grovelling from main-stream conservative UMP wannabees who find themselves stuck in a three-way fight in the second round.

Libération's headline view of the threat posed by the Front National is "Fear strikes the cities". The extreme right is still in the running in no fewer than 200 constituencies.

Back to Le Monde for a final word on the first round. The centrist paper looks at previous slaps on the wrist for sitting governments . . . in 1977, 1983, 2001 and 2008 . . . and concludes that it's a French tradition to vote against the incumbents, but that nothing ever changes.

In 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP candidates were being gutted, a socialist spokesman said "the president must hear the message being sent by the French people. His promises have not been kept, his behaviour as head of state is simply not acceptable". And the speaker was François Hollande, who may have those words come back to haunt him when the dust settles on next weekend's second round.

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