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French press review 31 March 2014

There's a horrible sense of déjà vu about this morning's front pages . . .

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Yesterday saw the second round of the French local elections. We knew the socialists were in trouble before a vote was cast; last week we had them reeling on the ropes; this morning, the French left is down and out.

"Punishment" is left-leaning Libération's stark headline.

"Total rejection" says the front page of communist L'Humanité.

Catholic La Croix summarises events by saying "Victory for the right, chaos for the left".

Right wing Le Figaro, anxious never to miss a chance to kick an opponent when he's down, says yesterday's results have unleashed a blue tidal wave on President Hollande, blue, of course, being the colour of the conservative right wing.

Just to put a little statistical clarity into the picture: nationwide, counting towns with 3,500 inhabitants or more, the mainstream right have 49 per cent, the left just 42 per cent, with the extreme right National Front taking control of the town hall in 9 per cent of French communities. That last figure is significant, when you consider that the National Front got less than half of one per cent in the last municipal elections, in 2008.

Popular Aujourd'hui en France says the president is now "Condemned to change," though whether that means a simple re-shuffle of his cabinet or a profound re-think of current policy is not very clear.

Le Monde's main story says the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has been organising his supporters with a view to going down fighting. His main danger is the increasingly popular Interior Minister, Manuel Valls. According to an opinion poll carried out for Aujourd'hui en France, 74 per cent of French voters want Ayrault sacked from the top job.

The same poll shows the French equally divided on the question of continuing with Hollande's financial and economic reforms, half saying let's grind on, half saying stop.

President Hollande is due to waltz with Valls and say hello to Ayrault this very day, before adressing the nation on TV tonight. Which means I can start writing tomorrow's press review before I go home this morning.

The town of Rosiers d'Egleton in the south central French region of Corrèze was not involved in yesterday's second vote, having elected the socialist Jean Boinet outright with a two-thirds majority last weekend.

Rosiers d'Egleton has just 908 registered voters, but deserves its place in history as the birthplace of two popes. No kidding! Clement VI, who was God's main man in the XIIIth century, and Gregory XI about a century later, both saw the light of day in Rosiers d'Egleton. Which fact may explain why the public representatives of the little town appealed to Rome for financial aid to repair the church bell-tower, damaged in a storm, this being the very church in which the two aforementioned popes were baptised.

Pope Francis was asked for a cheque to help cover the 25,000 euro repair bill. Francis is a nice guy, but he's no dope; he sent back a signed photo.

As if to prove that you can't have too much of a good thing, they've been running local elections in Turkey too.

There, the ruling party seems to have come out relatively unscathed, even if there's a danger that they may lose Istanbul and Ankara to the opposition People's Republican Party.

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