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French press review 9 March 2015

With just two weeks to go to departmental elections here in France, it's perhaps not surprising that two of the national dailies give pride of place to aspects of those polls.


Conservative Le Figaro chooses to highlight yesterday's warning from the prime minister, Manuel Valls, that France risks being destroyed by the extreme right National Front. Valls says he is afraid that extremist leader Marine Le Pen could win the next presidential election in 2017.

Le Figaro says the socialist prime minister is simply waving the extremist scarecrow in a desperate effort to mobilise left-wing voters and so limit the losses inflicted on the ruling party in the departmental polls.

Le Figaro also notes Valls' stated determination to stay on as head of government no matter how badly the socialists do at the end of the month.

The conservative paper's editorial wonders if these departmental elections are going to be transformed into a sort of referendum, for or against the National Front.

Says Le Figaro, to listen to the mainstream parties, whether of the left or the right, is to listen to a bunch of obsessives who have virtually nothing substantial to say about local taxes, the future division of the national territory, or decentralisation. They just witter on about the danger of a National Front takeover.

And who is to be blamed for the fact that an extremist party has been allowed to take the centre of the French political stage? Valls and Hollande, of course, and their lame policies.

Instead of whinging about republicanism and ideology, says Le Figaro, the socialists need to propose real answers to questions like immigration control, reducing unemployment, insecurity, state debt and the growing individual tax burden.

Instead of which we have same-sex marriage and an economic reform law not worth the recycled paper it's printed on.

And the real tragedy, according to the right-wing paper, is that the conservatives are too busy with their internal power struggles to have the time to propose anything so ordinary as a workable alternative. So the scare-mongers are probably correct, and a National Front triumph becomes ever more likely.

Le Monde looks at the same elections from the point of view of sexual equality. In the out-going departmental councils, only 14 per cent of the members are women. That's going to have to improve to at least 50 per cent by the time this month's elections are over, a tough task, since said councils have been, up to now, one of the bastions of resistance to male-female equality in the public sphere.

Big business is even worse, with 31 per cent of management jobs occupied by women, but only 10 per cent of them are at director general level.

On the broader question of sexual equality, in the wake of Sunday's world women's day, Le Monde notes that there are 80 million fewer women than there should be, male over-representation largely accounted for by the Asian fashion for foetal selection.

If you're thinking of moving to Germany, be careful what you tell the authorities about your religion. Every German taxpayer is obliged to inform the tax authorities of his or her religion. If he or she is a catholic or a protestant, the taxman will then deduct a sum equivalent to 10 per cent of his or her annual tax bill, paying the proceeds directly to the relevant church. The German catholic church collected the not inconsiderable sum of 5.4 billion euros from disbelieving believers in 2014; the protestants managed a respectable 4.6 billion.

The story is on the front page of Le Monde because a French national has objected to paying 550 euros to the catholic church, even though he's an atheist. The Germans checked him out and discovered that he had been baptised. So, to encourage him back onto the straight and narrow, they hit him with the tax bill. Apart from the cash lost, he's annoyed that his right to privacy has been infringed by the transfer of his baptismal details, normally covered by European directive 95/46/EC on the protection of personal information...

There's already been a row between the German hierarchy and the lads in Rome about German decisions to forbid poor payers access to the sacraments. But that might be motivated by jealousy.

And the saddest part of the whole story is that you can, in modern Germany; for a simple, one-off fee, actually buy yourself out of any religious affiliation. That costs just 30 euros. God be praised.


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