French press review 26 November 2016

The storm in the right-wing presidential teacup continues to brew as Juppé and Fillon prepare for tomorrow's decisive clash at the urn. Will François Hollande be among the crown of candidates trying to stop tomorrow's winner from becoming the next French president? That all depends on how he reads the latest unemployment figures.


Le Monde assures us that the clash between the French conservative presidential contenders, Alain Juppé and François Fillon, is nothing less than the confrontation of two visions of liberalism.

Further down the same front page, Le Monde carries an interview with the centrist freelance politician, former merchant banker and recent economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, himself a candidate who will face either Juppé or Fillon (and a hord of other would-bes) in next year's presidential bun-fight. Macron says Fillon is anything but liberal when it comes to the economy.

The gospel according to Emmanuel Macron

According to Emmanuel Macron, a real liberal would attack those who live off unearned income, would work to unblock the French economy, move towards a real social mobility, not simply continue to favour those who have already made it to the top of the heap.

Because there is no real liberal tradition in France, the French are incapable of distinguishing between conservative and liberal poilicies, says M. Macron.

Is a liberal conservative a conservative liberal in disguise?

Left-leaning daily Libération doesn't do anything to clarify the situation with a main headline which plunges "Into the Heart of the Right," and confronts a France which is more and more conservative and liberal, and has, as a result, chosen François Fillon as its champion. So Macron is right when he says conservatives are the new liberals?

Now it's up to the French voter to decide

Avoiding such weighty considerations, Le Figaro is scrupulously fair to the two men who will face off in tomorrow's second round of the right-wing match to select a presidential candidate.

Fillon and Juppé appear side-by-side on the front page, with a strictly useless headline assuring us that this is the moment of choice for the French right. Since anyone can show up and cast a vote, it's also the moment of choice for the left, the centre and the maoist-trotskyist-stalinist anarchists, but Le Figaro is anxious to present an image of a political family in which there are divergences but no divisions. Not like the low-life socialists with their perpetual in-fighting.

La Croix give the two men equal billing, with a brotherly image of political professionalism.

La Tribune would seem to favour Fillon.

Hollande basks in the success of his security forces

Les Echos give the honours to current president François Hollande and the news that a major terrorist attack has been averted with the arrest of four French nationals and a Morocan suspected of being associated with the Islamic State armed group.

How's the president doing on the jobs front?

On inside pages, Le Monde looks at the unemployment statistics, down again last month, for the seventh time this year. The paper wonders if this series of decreases in the number of those out of work constitutes a real change in the direction of the employment curve, a condition which François Hollande said was absolutely necessary if the current president was to run for a second term.

As you might expect, it all depends on how you read the figures.

There are certainly 101,300 fewer French people without any paid employment than there were one year ago.

But, if you add in the number of those who are only partially employed, there are nearly 21,000 more of them than in October 2015. Then there are another 85,000 people who are out of work but who are being trained under the government's plan to re-orient those who have lost jobs in sectors which are unlikely ever to recover.

That brings the number of those out of work to well over six million.

And on the other hand . . .

Le Monde notes that the French national statistics agency, the Insee, which publishes its jobs figures every three months and which is internationally recognised as a dependable source, finds that, in fact, the number of those unemployed has decreased by 118,000 over the past year. That represents a decline of 0.4 percent over the year in the direction of the employment curve.

François Hollande has promised to make his understanding of the figures, and his presidential intentions, known next month.

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