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French press review 26 August 2014

France has been gripped by political crisis, as President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manul Valls reshuffle the cabinet following a revolt over economic policy and the papers have plenty to say on the matter.


Before jumping into what the French press has to say about the government's collapse yesterday, here's a breakdown of what has actually happened.

Economy minister Arnaud Montebourg supposedly crossed the line over the weekend by criticising his own ministry's economic strategy. He claimed to be a "fighter from within", suggesting he was a kind of double-agent promoting the real socialist cause in an increasingly centrist government.

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This combined with further fire from other ministers made Prime Minister Manuel Valls keen to get rid of him.

As Montebourg himself did not offer a resignation, Valls himself resigned, leading to the dissolution of the cabinet - and for approximately three minutes, he was out of a job.

Hollande quickly reappointed him and charged him with putting together a new cabinet.

The French press is buzzing with the news about the cabinet's resignation - and they're not being particularly merciful towards the country's embattled leader.

“What is Hollande thinking?” is what leading daily Le Monde wonders. Things looked bad a week ago, with poor economic data out and record low popularity ratings, but now they're looking positively dismal.

The move to dissolve cabinet comes only five months after the new cabinet, with Valls at its head, had been reshuffled.

It's a heavy-handed move to assert authority - after dissent in the ranks of the government came to a head this weekend, the paper thinks.

Hollande may think it was unacceptable mutiny - but where isn’t there room for dialogue? Le Monde thinks the government may in fact face a new loss of authority as the move may unite opposition rather than quell it.

Le Figaro runs a front-page portrait of Hollande looking disoriented with his glasses fogged up from rain, and the headline: “Regime crisis.”

For the conservative paper, the only tragedy is that the move to dissolve cabinet did not come sooner.

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The “executive pair” Hollande and Valls may cook up a new cabinet more closely allied with their economic programme but it's not going to be enough to save the day.

The paper thinks the conflict between Valls and Montebourg shows what the political stage will look like after Hollande. It's an ego war between two fractions of the left and the current rift gives us a taste of how the Socialists will tear each other apart over the next presidential elections, it says.

Left-leaning Libération has the same headline as right-wing Le Figaro.

The paper thinks that the current "regime crisis" has only increased the president's isolation. He can get rid of his rogue economy minister but he can't get rid of Montebourg's ideas.

His bid to soften austerity measures is echoed throughout the European left and even the president of the Central European Bank, Mario Draghi, has expressed a need for relaxing the budget to boost growth.

L'Humanité calls the move a power grab, meant to muzzle anyone who opposes liberal economic policy. The Communist Party daily points out that Valls's popularity ratings have plumetted since. Hollande may attempt some manoeuvres to win back his voters but for the paper it's clear: the only way out is working on a strong alternative left to counter the ruling party's blunders.

Catholic La Croix points out that Hollande still has one trump card: if the opposition gets too loud, he could also dissolve parliament. But local elections this spring showed voter confidence at an all-time low, so it would be a dangerous move. The paper does welcome Hollande's firm hand and hopes that this means his economic policies will no longer be up for debate.

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