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French press review 26 May 2015

Spanish elections draw a lot of attention this morning, as French editors sift the results for lessons at local and European level. There's also a certain amount of soul-searching in the wake of the Cannes Film Festival, a triumph for home-grown cinema but not necessarily a winning vision of French society.


Spain gets the honours on two of this morning's French front pages.

"Spectacular advance by the anti-austerity left," is how Le Monde sums up Sunday's Spanish local elections, polls which saw the radical left-wing Podemos party take over the Barcelona city hall and a share of the spoils in the capital, Madrid.

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The ruling Popular Party took a hammering, losing about 10 per cent of the support the right-wing organisation obtained in the 2011 poll. The opposition Socialists also lost considerable numbers of voters. Le Monde suggests that Sunday's results, especially the breakthrough by Podemos, may mark the end of Spain's 30-year-old bipartite system.

The main headline in communist L'Humanité says "The anti-austerity forces shake up the Spanish political landscape." But the communist daily is more interested in the message which Spain, in the wake of Greece, is sending to the technocrats in Brussels. Austerity has not worked; Spain has one quarter of its active population on the dole, 50 per cent of the under-25s are out of work.

How much of an impact Podemos can have on that situation remains to be seen, especially since the radical party will be forced into partnership deals with the Socialists of Psoe in many cities.

Le Monde also looks at the series of French triumphs at the Cannes film festival on Sunday, saying the glory is something of a paradox.

Local talent did well at the final prize-giving with the top prize, the Palme d'Or, going to director Jacques Audiard, and best actor awards for Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Bercot. Director Agnès Varda got a special lifetime award for her cinema of social commitment. And that's where the paradox comes in. The image of France portrayed by the top films . . . Paris suburbs ravaged by drugs and violence, lives diminished by unemployment and poverty . . . reflects a society little concerned about the fate of those who fall by the wayside.

Catholic La Croix is also critical of the 68th festival, saying the films honoured are doubtless worthy but several extraordinary works were overlooked.

Le Monde warns that the position of Cannes as the leading international festival and the top global market for film is not guaranteed forever. Especially since the marketplace has been transformed into a virtual one by internet. The foreign rights of 16 of the 21 films in competition this year are held by French companies. That's partly a sign of the energy of the local industry, says Le Monde, but it could also, in the long run, scare many producers away from Cannes.

Work is the other dominant front-page topic.

La Croix asks "Who works on days off?" a question inspired by yesterday's no-longer-quite-official Pentecost Monday. The Catholic daily finds that France's population of full-time workers work, on average, one official day off for every two in the calendar. Which is probably just as well for national productivity since there are 11 national holidays in France, four of them in the month of May.

India tops the world holiday league, with 18 official days off per year. Our neighbours across the English Channel are the hardest worked in the world, with just eight national holidays.

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French Labour Minister François Rebsamen will today present his law on industrial relations to parliament.

Right-wing Le Figaro says the proposals should make life simpler for medium and large-scale companies. But the conservative daily says small employers, with 10 staff or fewer, are up in arms against legislation which will make life even more difficult with the establishment of regional interprofessional commissions to act as intermediaries in negotiations between bosses and workers. We don't need a law to tell us how to talk to our staff, say the owners.

And Libération gives prominence to the fact that the new law could recognise burn-out as a professional disease, with the employers obliged to take on the financial and personnel implications. As many as 3.2 million employees could be suffering the effects of excessive and compulsive work, according to specialists quoted by Libé.

I'm off home to bed.


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