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French press review 25 March 2014

The French front pages are still filled with analysis, vituperation and various sorts of blather associated with the ongoing local elections.

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Le Monde's main headline sums up Sunday's first round by saying "Triumph for the Front National, disaster for the socialists". Both the triumph and the disaster are relative. The party of the extreme right will, indeed, be present in next weekend's second round vote in a record number of constituencies, almost double a previous high in1995.

The ruling socialists have suffered the almost traditional protest vote, and must also take some responsibility for the record-breakingly low voter turnout.

So, what can they do?

Libération wants President Hollande to reshuffle the government and change political direction. But to go where?

The state still needs to save 50 billion euros, so any incoming ministers will face a diet of bread and water. And then there's the question of what to do with the social democratic tendencies recently promoted by the president's responsibility pact with the bosses. They could always go back to being just plain socialists, suggests Libé.

Tabloid Aujourd'hui en France visits those constituencies where the extreme right performed best, with a view to asking voters why they supported the party of Marine Le Pen.

Most answers are based on a disaffection with the current government, with policies which are seen as too complicated, promises too long-term, a government isolated in its ivory tower. Le Pen has the benefits of simplicity (even if many of her simple solutions are simply unrealistic, they make good slogans) and immediacy (even if most of the nation's problems are long-term, structural ones and can not be solved overnight).

There are, of course, some other stories in the French press . . .

All papers look at the tragic and so far unsatisfactory announcement by the Malaysian authorities that flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

Analysis by the British satellite company Inmarsat and the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Bureau was cited yesterday by the Malaysian prime minister as the source of information that has narrowed the location where the Malaysia Airlines flight may have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean to a corridor a couple of hundred miles wide.

The analysis follows fresh examination of eight satellite "pings"+ sent by the aircraft on the morning of Saturday 8 March, when it vanished from radar screens.

This sort of analysis has never before been used in an investigation involving a passenger aircraft. It will help those who are searching for the aircraft wreckage and, crucially, the two flight recorders, but it answers none of the important questions for the relatives and friends of those on board the ill-fated flight.

Then there's the snubbing of Russian president Vladimir Putin by his former friends and allies in the Group of Seven. They, the leaders of the world's seven most powerful economies, met yesterday in The Hague in an effort to find a way of putting pressure on the Russian leader, without provoking him too much.

The original purpose of the Dutch summit was to discuss nuclear security, but the agenda was hastily changed to focus on the danger of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moldova and several other former soviet satellites.

There's an irony in that, says Libération, since Ukraine in 1994 agreed to abandon its huge nuclear arsenal in return for a guarantee of its territorial integrity. And that guarantee was signed by the United States, Great Britain and, would you believe, Russia.

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