French Press Review 10 October

Sunday's first round vote in primaries to choose a Socialist Party candidate for next year's Presidential elections features widely in today's French dailies, along with the unrest in Mayotte and the latest plan to save the euro...


Libération's headline reads "The Left wins its election," a reference to the fact that nearly two and a half million voters turned out yesterday to choose the Socialist Party's candidate for next year's French presidential election.

Well, they didn't actually get as far as choosing, because nobody managed to collect more than 50% of the vote, but at least they narrowed the field, from six contenders to two. Next Sunday, there'll be a second round head-to-head between those two, François Hollande and Martine Aubry, after which the Socialists will have six months in which to paper over the cracks and unite behind a single candidate. Like it or lump it.

Obviously, the personal and policy divisions exposed in the various debates which led up to this election won't simply disappear.

But that risk seems to have been worth the compensation of a motivated electorate, with a real say in the choice of its candidate. And, since more than one million of yesterday's voters voluntarily left their electronic addresses on the Socialist Party computer, the Left now has a solid bloc of supporters which can be mobilised at a click. That's THE key to victory next year, according to one party director.

Communist l'Humanité says the election was not just an internal affair for the French Left, but had attracted many non-aligned voters who wanted simply to voice their discontent with Sarkozy and the current administration.

Right-wing Le Figaro had no choice but to put the ghastly Socialists on the front page too, but they stress the divisions rather than the victory. The fact that radical candidate Arnaud Montebourg came third yesterday, according to Figaro, suggests that the Left will have enormous difficulty in pulling the various factions together before the real battle in 2012. And the right-wing paper is delighted to point out that yesterday's two and a half million voters represent a mere four per cent of the French electorate.

There was no Socialist primary in Mayotte because local party chiefs either couldn't or wouldn't take the risk of organising the ballot.

Mayotte, which is the only part of the Comoro island group to have chosen to remain French, when the question was put to a referendum in the 1970s, has seen a two-week general strike against the high cost of living.

The price of basic necessities has doubled in seven years, the minimum wage is only 80% of that paid in other French departments, and it is estimated that fewer than thirty thousand of the island's 200,000 inhabitants have jobs.

Strike organisers say they are drawing inspiration from the 2009 disturbances in some French overseas departments, where similar grieviances brought Guadeloupe to a standstill and forced some concessions from central government. But, says the Overseas Minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, the Guadeloupe dispute finally cost the island 3,000 jobs. She warns that the same thing could happen in Mayotte.

Needless to remark, the European financial crisis didn't go away while the Socalists were urning out their differences.

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel met at the weekend and decided to give themselves another month to save the single currency. The banks are going to get a golden handout to tide them over, but they'll have to accept a sharper European eye on their affairs.

Business daily Les Echos looks at the same story, saying that the new deadline is the G20 summit, due to be held in the southern French city of Cannes in early November.

The business paper says the markets are likely to be disappointed by the lack of precision in the Sarkozy-Merkel proposals, which threaten some wide and woolly change of the current European treaties to "increase integration", whatever that may turn out to mean. The Asian markets this morning seem to be moderately happy, with overall prices up and the euro recovering a little from last week's free-fall. And, at least, it distracts some attention from those awful Socialists.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning