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French press review 06 ctober 2014

The papers devote a lot of front-page space to trying to understand yesterday's protest marches by French conservatives. The demonstrators, many of whom campaigned against the legislation allowing marriage for same-sex couples, are worried about the Socialist government's family policy in general.

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Yesterday's marches in Paris and Bordeaux were heading in the wrong direction according to the front page of left-leaning Libération. Libé says the protestors were wasting their time, since the law allowing homosexual marriage has been passed, is accepted by the majority of French people, and could be reversed only with enormous difficulty, not least for those couples married under the new rules.

But that's not really what's going on, says Libé. The real agenda is twofold: the protestors are anti-homosexual, according to the left-wing daily, and they want to establish themselves as major players on the French political scene.

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Le Monde and Le Figaro agree that yesterday's protestors want to be major players on the political scene, though there are significant variations between the two papers.

Centrist Le Monde says these (mostly catholic) conservatives could turn out to be difficult allies for a mainstream right wing already troubled by extremist tendencies. The UMP party remains sharply divided on what to do with the homosexual marriage law, if the right should be returned to power. Opinions range from those UMP figures who would like the whole tortured affair to quietly disappear, to those who have chosen to turn it into a political battleground.

Right wing Le Figaro says yesterday's protestors represent a problem for both the UMP and the ruling socialists. The government could do without them because they represent yet another nail in the coffin of this particular administration, and the right is already sufficiently divided on core issues like the economy and immigration so can hardly afford yet another contentious debate.

How many protestors were there yesterday in Paris? Five hundred and thirty thousand according to the organisers; 78,000 according to the police. Somebody can't count.

Catholic La Croix gives the front page honours to a very different sort of tragedy. Exactly one year ago, 366 would-be immigrants from north Africa drowned off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. According to the catholic paper, those who escaped drowning have since suffered the slow misery of life as illegals in Europe, living rough, at the mercy of the police who frequently confiscate their few belongings, or of those with whom they share the streets, who steal whatever's left.

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It is anything but clear, says La Croix, that the huge risk involved in crossing the Mediterranean, and the 1,500 euros demanded by those who provide the boats, result in anything other than disappointment. Which is better than death, of course, and perhaps better than life could ever have been in Gaza, Darfour, Syria or Eritrea. That might be the real tragedy.

The front page of communist L'Humanité is torn between praise for those extreme left-wingers who refuse to toe the austere economic line demanded by Brussels and Berlin, and condemnation of the main candidates for the presidency of the UMP party . . . Sarkozy, Juppé and Fillon . . .  a trio, says the communist paper, divided only in the degrees of virulence they bring to their attack on the French social model.

The national secretary of the French Communist Party said at the weekend that its up to the lads on the far left to create the conditions which will allow a different social, economic and political approach to the current austerity-for-everyone.

As for Sarkozy, Juppé and Fillon, they're falling over one another in their efforts to support the free market liberalism that got us into this fine mess in the first place.

Juppé says he wants to lead a project of reform, bring people together, smooth the rough texture of French society. The communist daily quotes him as describing the giving of free medical aid to illegal immigrants as a "waste". On the first anniversary of Lampedusa, that's pretty smooth.

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