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French press review 6 March 2012

5 min

There's still a long way to go before April's first round of the presidential election in France, but this hasn't stopped most of the press from homing in on the two favourites for the top job, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande

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The main headline in today's business daily Les Echos reads "Eurozone: the debt menace decreases". This is because France and Italy are finding it cheaper than expected to fudge up loans on the international markets. That's good.

But the poor old Portuguese are still trying to keep a truckful of bricks afloat with a tennis ball, and the whole European family needs to find 100 billion euros to meet its debts this month alone.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The anti-austerity fighting has moved off the Greek streets and into the Greek parliament, where deputies have been throwing books at one another in the debate between pro and anti-Europeans.

The Greeks will have spring elections, expected to prove decisive for the future of the country as a part of the monetary union.

We're going to see and hear a lot of president-candidate Nicolas Sarkozy this week, as he charges across the media landscape in pursuit of his Socialist rival, François Hollande.

For starters, the defending champion is on the front page of right wing Le Figaro, putting immigration at the heart of his campaign.

Sarko continues to lose ground in all opinion polls, trailing Hollande by 14 points according to a poll in this morning's left-wing Libération, and the centrist daily Le Monde says the out-going president has clearly decided to go all-out for the populist, conservative voter, with a newly harsh tone on immigrants and the ritual killing associated with halal meat products.

But, whatever Sarkozy says, suggests Le Monde, quoting majority party councillors struggling to get a becalmed campaign under way again, the out-going president reminds people of the last campaign, based on energy and promises, all very quickly betrayed once he'd been elected.

Left leaning Libération looks at Sarkozy's relations with the rich and says the figures prove that the biggest companies and the best-off families profited most from the five years of Sarko's presidency.

Of the 84 billion euros redistributed by the government since 2007, 60 per cent went to big business, 22 per cent to the well-heeled, with a paltry one per cent of the cash going to the remaining 90 per cent of the French population.

Libé quotes an obviously un-named government minister as saying that very few memebers of the presidential team still believe Sarkozy has any chance of being re-elected.

François Hollande continues to be the media darling, refusing to engage in the street fights and political ambushes being set up by the right, insisting that he will be a non-partisan president.

Le Monde
quotes Hollande as saying that he is and always will be a Socialist. "But," he continues, "the president is not the head of a political party. He's the leader of a nation."

Honest Frank wants to see an end of the 'president-of-everything' style of government, where parliament and ministers are pushed into an invisible background by the all-powerful man at the helm.

François Hollande is going to answer for his actions and decisions before the parliament, once every six months.

Frank will meet the top bosses as often as necessary, but he won't be accepting any invitations to lunch. Neither on dry land nor on board Vincent Bolloré's or anyone else's yacht.

And he wants to see the judiciary and the audiovisual sector both made truly independent, by setting up authorities responsible for naming the top judges and the people who run, for example, radio stations.

We've been talking a lot recently about Hollande's determination to tax the million euro earners at the rate of 75 per cent.

The threat has apparently swollen to a flood with refugees pushing their cash laden luxury cars across the Alps in search of the fiscal safety of Switzerland. But it's also having a negative impact on the game of football in France.

According to an economist and specialist in the business side of the beautiful game, French football is already excessively penalised by the state and will no longer be able to attract the vital big name stars if big number salaries are no longer on offer.

The same specialist says 20 per cent of the players in the top French league earn more than the million euro annual limit and so will be forced to pay lots more tax under President Hollande.

Unlike rock stars, tennis players and fashion designers who can claim to have made most of their money outside the national territory, football is played and paid for in France, so there'll be no fudging.

Which means, says Le Monde, that the best players will move to countries with less rigorous tax regimes, and the quality of top French football and the number of spectators will simply decline.

Another presidential candidate in the news is the centrist, François Bayrou, who wants the justice minister to be appointed with majority approval by the National Assembly, not nominated, as at present, by the president.

Says Bayrou, "let's stop talking about an independent judiciary, and actually do something. The minister of justice should not be named to represent a party, but to represent the entire nation."

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