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French press review 6 December 2016

Following yesterday's announcement that he will, indeed, run as a candidate in the Socialist-run primary to choose a presidential candidate, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls dominates this morning's front pages.


Manuel Valls is this morning's main man.

Yesterday evening the French prime minister announced that he would, indeed, join the scrum of candidates jostling to represent the Socialist Party and its allies in next year's French presidential battle.

His departure means that the current administration needs to find a new boss, and also that the state of emergency will automaticaly come to an end on 21 December. The law insists that the special regulations, in force since November last year when Islamist attackers killed 130 people in and around Paris, must come to an end two weeks after the resignation of the prime minister.

Le Figaro suggests that the emergency regulations will be extended for the fifth time on 21 December by a vote in the National Assembly.

Who'll be next in the hot seat?

As for who might step into Valls's shoes for the remaining months of the Socialist government, right-wing Le Figaro mentions Stéphane Le Foll, the current agriculture minister and government spokesman, as a prime contender.

Le Figaro says the only risk is that, in naming Le Foll as his premier, Hollande will once again look like the president who never ceased to act like the leader of the socialist party. Though the out-going president has little left to loose.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is another, according to the right-wing daily. And the names of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Marisol Touraine, currently at Education and Health respectively, are also mentioned, mainly on the basis of recent long meetings which the two ministers have held with the president.

Le Figaro is this morning asking its readers to vote on the question "Do you want Manuel Valls to win the left-wing primary election?" With 26,000 votes cast, 25 percent have said yes, the remaining 75 percent NO.

The unity candidate in a divided political family

Left-leaning Libération says the Valls campaign will be centred on the idea of reunification, of both his own tattered and fractious Socialist family and of French society more generally, riven by social, religious and ethnic tensions. Speaking against the dangers of selfishness in politics, Valls modestly stressed his own credentials and experience as a credible leader, the only one of the various centrist and Socialist would-bees who has actually run a government.

Le Monde welcome Valls's announcement with a main headline wondering if he has the capacity to rally a sufficient number of Socialist supporters to his cause.

Martine Aubry, former leader of the Socialist Party, suggests that Valls will have a tough time living down some of the legislation he championed during his time at the helm. She says the party won't reunite behind an individual, only around crucial socialist values. The mayor of the northern city of Lille goes on to say, with characteristic bluntness, that the current divisions on the left do not mean that there are two left wings in France, simply that some on the left have sold out to the right.

A long history of political involvement

Business daily La Tribune reminds readers that Valls was in the running in the last Socialist primary, in 2011, when he was eliminated in the first round with just 5.6 percent of votes. Things have, of course, changed since then.

Manuel Valls has been a member of the Socialist Party since 1980, when he was studying history. He cut his political teeth as a parliamentary attaché and then as a regional councillor. He took over responsibility for Socialist Party public relations in 1995. He failed to win a parliamentary seat in 1997.

He finally got himself elected in the 2001 municipal elections, becoming mayor of Evry. A year later he won a parliamentay place. He was reelected mayor of Evry in 2008 with 70 percent support. The magazine Capital described his management of Evry's finances as "anything but rigorous", claiming that he left the town hall having emptied the communal coffers.

Valls became interior minister early in the Hollande presidency, rapidly emerging as the government's most popular figure.

When, in April 2014, Manuel Valls became the leader of François Hollande's "fighting government," he was given three priorities: the economy, social justice and reunification. But that government rapidly fell apart as several ministers refused to accept the line laid down by the new leader. Now Valls is staking his future on his ability to pull the disgruntled troops back into line.


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