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French press review 22 May 2012

4 min

A look ahead to June's legislative elections, the problem with the stock market launch of Facebook and why France has no law on sexual harassment grab the headlines in the French press.

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Communist L'Humanité and catholic La Croix both look forward to next month's French parliamentary elections.

The communists say this is the "other" battle for change, and will require a strenuous effort from a united left to keep the revenge hungry hordes on the right from sabotaging François Hollande's plans for reform.

The communist daily is happy to point to left wing diversity as one of the great socialist strengths, but is also worried that there will have to be clear agreements with both the far Left Front run by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the little green people of the ecology movement.

Mélenchon has already ruffled more than a few left wing feathers by his decision to take on far right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, in her stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont, where the out-going deputy is a socialist.

Mélenchon is also hoping to increase the number of deputies from his Left-Front alliance from around 20 to around 30, but he'll obviously do most of that at the expense of the mainstream socialists.

Catholic La Croix tells us that there are three possible outcomes in the wake of the elections on the 10th and 17th of next month.

Either the Socialist Party will win an outright majority, or the various factions of the left will win sufficient seats to govern under what the French call a relative majority.

Or, horror of horrors, in the event of an absolute majority for the right, we would be back in the bad old days of "cohabitation" where a president of one political colour is hampered and badgered by a government from the other side of the political divide.

That hasn't happened since presidential terms were alligned with parliamentary ones (meaning five years for everyone, elections in the same calendar year) under Jacques Chirac, and would probably provoke an institutional, if not a constitutional, crisis.

Business daily Les Echos wonders what went wrong with the stock market launch of the social networking website, Facebook.

At the close of business yesterday in New York, shares in the company were worth 34 dollars, 11 per cent down on the launch price.

The main culprits seem to be the merchant bank Morgan Stanley, who may have grossly over-estimated the value of the company, and whose secretive approach to the launch now appears to have been counterproductive. Lots of ordinary, non-professional shareholders wanted to get involved but couldn't because of a series of computer malfunctions.

Morgan Stanley have since been buying billions of dollars of Facebook shares themselves in an effort to prop up the price, so far without any real effect.

Right wing Le Figaro and left-leaning Libération both look at the law.

The front page of Le Figaro laments the promise made by the new Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, to do away with criminal courts for juveniles in the 16-18 age group, courts which were introduced under the Sarkozy regime in an effort to limit the number of repeat offenders coming before the children's courts.

Stop worrying about the offenders bleats Le Figaro, think about the victims.

And Libération looks at the legal hole created by the French Constitutional Court which recently decided that, because the existing statutes on sexual harrassment are so unclear as to be worthless, France would be better off with no law at all.

And that's the current situation. Sexual harrassment is not really a crime in France at the moment, because there's no law against it.

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