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French Press Review 14 December 2017

What does this week's US Senate election defeat for the Republicans mean for President Donald Trump? What is Emmanuel Macron planning to do to Europe and who might stand in his way? Are we prepared to pay the real price for suburban shopping centres?

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Le Monde's main headline reads "Electoral setback for Donald Trump and the Alabama far right".

There hasn't been a Democrat senator elected in the southern state since 1992, and even he jumped ship two years later and became a Republican.

Le Monde says Democrat Doug Jones's defeat of Republican Roy Moore is a political earthquake and that the tremors will be felt as far away as Washington, especially since the defeated candidate presented the election as "a referendum on the programme of Donald Trump".

To put the defeat in perspective, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 30 points in Alabama in the 2016 presidential race.

The president's Republican Party now has a majority of just one in the US Senate.

Le Monde says Trump has reacted by accelerating his fiscal reform programme. Yesterday, he told Congress that he wants his proposed tax reforms voted into law before Christmas. Trump badly needs a popular success to compensate for the Alabama defeat.

New York bankers and California's computer kids are the winners in Trump's reform for the rich, according to Le Monde, with company tax to be reduced to 21 percent from the current 35 percent.

Macron sets his sights on Europe

Le Figaro gives the front-page honours to French President Emmanuel Macron, saying that he's now working to end the left-right political divide in Europe.

Having already pulverised the traditional polarisation between conservatives and socialists here in France, Le Figaro says, Macron now wants to put an end to the division between social democrats and the parties of the right, a situation which has dominated European Union decision making for decades.

The right-wing paper's editorial on the topic is dramatically headlined "Blowing up the Old Continent".

Le Figaro says Macron's plan is to profit from the 2019 European elections, which will see a complete changing of the guard in Brussels, Strasbourg and Frankfurt, to strengthen his own position of influence in European affairs.

The only problem is Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor will not want to share her top perch in European affairs with anyone, especially since she has her own domestic battles on Europe, with her probable coalition partners insisting on positions which might cause friction between Mutti Merkel and Emmanuel.

Can we survive without shopping centres?

The main story in left-leaning Libération is much more down-to-earth: as corner shops and small local stores continue to vanish from the centres of French cities under the huge commercial pressure exerted by the big names in contemporary commerce, Libé wonders if it isn't time to ban shopping centres.

It's not a simple problem.

Nobody wants to see streets of closed-up former butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. But not everybody can afford to pay the higher prices charged by small local sellers. The big distributers on the outskirts are cheaper and they're able to promise jobs, leaving local politicians caught between two bad options.

The government has launched a plan to save town centres from becoming commercial graveyards. Libération says the proposals simply don't come up to scratch.

The crucial element is the 931,000 square metres of new shopping centre which will be built in France next year. That's a lot of investment, a lot of building, a lot of jobs. So, don't expect anything heavyhanded like the complete ban on the slow drift of selling to the suburbs.

Especially since the supersellers can claim that they, too, are facing hard times, with the internet beginning to make a real impact on the way people do their shopping.

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