French press review 7 December 2015

Two papers run with the same headline this morning, even though they are about as far apart as you can get on the French political spectrum, and the identical headlines read "The shock". No prizes for guessing that we're talking about yesterday's first round of the French regional elections and that the far-right Front National did remarably well.


As things stood as the main dailies went to press, the far right , which campaigned on an anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, hyper-security ticket, had collected 28 per cent of votes nationally, giving it the lead in six of the 13 regions, narrowly ahead of the mainstream right, comfortably pushing the ruling Socialists into a distant third.

Catholic La Croix summarises the situation with a main headline reading: "Further success for the Front National, the debate gets serious."

Left-leaning Libération simply warns "It's getting closer," the "it" in question being the end of the French two-party system dominated in the modern era by a variety of more-or-less united conservative parties on the one hand and a cluster of more-or-less left-wing entities on the other.

Now Marine Le Pen has shown that her policies on foreigners, security and France's place in the European Union are attracting increasing numbers of voters.

The fact remains, of course, that Le Pen and her cohorts have won absolutely nothing yet. No party anywhere got even close to the 50 per cent of votes cast which would have led to a first-round victory. So it's all left to play for in next Sunday's second round. The problem is for the second- and third-placed organisations - either Nicolas Sarkozy's Republicans or the ruling Socialists and their various allies - to come to some sort of an agreement which will block the Front National next weekend.

Sarkozy has already made it clear that he'll have no truck with the Socialists anywhere, the candidates of his Republicas will run again next Sunday, whether they came second or third in yesterday's vote. Which puts the onus on the already battered Socialists to withdraw from regions in which they could, with a little help from the mainsteam right, actually hope to win.

In actual fact, Sarkozy's hard line will have an impact only in the southern region now known as Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrenees. Everywhere else the Socialists are so far adrift they couldn't win even if Sarko got out and campaigned for them himself.

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Sarko, according to left-wing analysts, wants to use next Sunday's second round to kill off the Socialist Party with a view to next year's presidential election, without offending the growing army of far-right voters.

Left-leaning Libération says the Front National is now the main danger facing France. Libé thinks yesterday's result is the fault of the mainstream right and of the not-sufficiently-united left. France is politically sick, says the left-wing paper, noting that only half of registered voters bothered to visit a polling station yesterday.

Libération says the Socialists did slightly better than predicted but have still taken a pasting. However, the real loser yesterday was Nicolas Sarkozy, according to the analysis offered by Libé, because he has failed to formulate policies capable of attracting those conservative voters who hesitate between the mainstream right and its extreme version as represented by Marine Le Pen.

Sarkozy's chief rival for the right to represent the Republicans at next year's election, Alain Juppé, has at the very least the advantage that he refuses any temptation to mimic the far-right posturing of Le Pen. It will be up to the party faithful to decide which line of attack they prefer when they hold their famous primary face-off some time early next year.

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