French press review 14 May 2012

Two troubled nations and two French political figures dominate this morning's front pages.


If I tell you that Greece is one of the nations, and French president-elect François Hollande one of the political figures, can you name the other two?

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

And the answers are: China, and the leader of the French far left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

China makes a surprise appearance on the front page of the weekend edition of Le Monde, under the headline "Unprecedented power wars in Beijing".

Le Monde thinks that recent political scandals in China suggest that the politburo style of government may have passed its sell-by date, even if the 400 comrades who run the Chinese communist party will be the last to admit it.

The gap between the Chinese and those who rule them is ever widening, says Le Monde, and the chances are strongly in favour of the one-and-a-half billion men in the street having the last word over the 400 uniformed goons supposed to be in charge.

The problems for the 400 goons are not only domestic. Le Monde says Beijing is greatly worried by recent American diplomatic strides in the Asia-Pacific basin, building stronger US ties, notably with the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and Australia. This kind of broad alliance threatens Chinese claims to sovereignity, and fishing and prospecting rights, over huge swathes of the South China Sea.

The "other" French political figure is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far left, who has announced his intention to confront far right leader, Marine Le Pen, on her home turf in next month's parliamentary elections.

This clash of the extremes will be fought by the left-wing alliance on the basis of social solidarity and an increased sharing of wealth.

Mélenchon wants it to be seen as a debate about policy, not a face-off between personalities. Or, that's what he's saying, at least.

You have to wonder about the political wisdom of taking on a woman who collected nearly 32 per cent of the votes in her home constituency in the recent presidential first round. Mélenchon managed less than half that, at just under 15 per cent.

The far left leader is obviously counting on the fact that 60 per cent of constituency voters supported François Hollande in the second round of the presidential battle, although profiting from that will obviously depend on forging some kind of pre-election deal with the mainstream socialists.

Back to Greece, and the front page of Catholic La Croix which announces that Athens has completely lost the plot. And that was before this morning's blunt statement from the Democratic Left that they won't be dancing with anybody who's currently asking.

One analyst interviewed by La Croix says Greece is on its way towards the abyss, which might not be real news, but the same commentator says Europe has completely underestimated the explosive potential of a collapse of the Greek economy.

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