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French press review 3 December 2014

Hollande is accused of plotting to change the voting system to reduce damage to his party at the next election. French bosses’ appetite grows with eating. The French parliament backs recognising Palestine.


You can accuse the conservative daily paper Le Figaro of many things but inconsistency is not one of them.

Le Figaro will never let a chance pass to say something unkind about the ruling Socialists, even if it's not exactly news. This morning's main headline is a good example: "The left would be flattened in a snap election," we read, not because there's any likelihood of a parliamentary election but because Le Figaro commissioned an opinion poll which shows that, if there was to be an election next Sunday, the combined forces of the right would win as many as 505 of the 577 seats, leaving the Socialists and the far-right Front National (FN) to pick up the crumbs.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

There is one important point to be drawn from the Figaro poll. Under the current voting system, where you choose one candidate from the list, the Front National would win between 14 and 24 seats. But if proportional representation was to be introduced, where you could vote for several candidates in order of preference, then the FN could win as many as 158 seats, leaving no mainstream party with a workable majority.

Le Figaro's editorial explains why they're interested in the results. The right-wing paper fears that some of President François Hollande's closest advisors have been suggesting a Machiavellian strategy to get out of the current political dead end: under this cunning plan, Hollande would call for a referendum, reducing the number of deputies and introducing proportional representation. That would have the advantage of making the left-wing defeat look less like a rout. The president would then choose a UMP figure as his prime minister and a sort of government of national unity would struggle to find common ground between the currently divided Socialists and their equally divided conservative opponents, with the hugely strengthened FN snapping at everyone's heels.

It would be a terrible mistake, warns Le Figaro, saying it would set France back to the bad old days of the Fourth Republic, days of petty political posturing, self-interest and compromise. It would be an explosive cocktail in a nation with 3.5 million unemployed. With the added disadvantage of boosting the far right and adding weight to FN leader Marine Le Pen's claim to the presidency.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The bosses are bastards, says the front page of left-leaning Libération. Not in so many words but that's the message. Despite a government that has bent over backwards to give them everything they have demanded and more, the ungrateful gits have been out in the streets protesting that they don't get enough.

Libé analyses the background to the claims by the employers and finds that they have, in reality, been given more than they were asking for two years ago.

Tax on capital gains is now lower than it was under the (right-wing) Sarkozy government, businesses have seen their tax bill reduced by 20 billion euros and there's as much again to come over the next three years; the law which was supposed to put manners on the big banks is, says Libé, a damp squib which has let François Hollande's "real enemy," as he described the financial institutions during his election campaign, off the hook.

And the list continues, no cap on the salaries paid to top executives, no ecotax, no real widening of employment legislation . . . for Libération, the bosses have done very well under the Socialist administration and should be back at work creating more jobs and more wealth instead of clogging up the nation's streets with stupid protest marches.

Both Catholic La Croix and communist L'Humanité give the front-page honours to

Dossier: Gaza 2009

yesterday's decision by the French parliament to call on the government to recognise Palestine as a state. The wording alone gives a hint of how symbolic this gesture is but the Israeli ambassador to Paris has already condemned the vote, saying it sends the wrong message to the Middle Eastern region and will not advance the cause of peace.

The whole exercise has been overshadowed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to eliminate the centrists in his governing coalition. Elections are likely to be necessary, less than two years after the last polls, with Netanyahu counting on the current siege mentality in Israel to bring him back to power with an increased hard-right majority.

Against that background, symbolic votes in Europe seem less than insignificant.


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