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French press review 24 February 2017

Text by: Brian Eads
4 min

The papers have had time to reflect on Wednesday's announcement of a new alliance in French politics in the run up to the Presidential election in the Spring - that between Emmanuel Macron and François Bayrou.


Historically, the contest has been between the politcal left and right - or, from time to time, between right and further right.

What's different this time is that Macron, a multi-millionaire former investment banker who served as Economy Minister in the ruling Socialist government before resigning to join the race for the Elysée, presents himself as being representative of the political centre, more of a can-do pragmatist than a left or right ideologue.

Bayrou, who leads the Democratic Movement and was a candidate in the 2002, 2007 and 2012 presidential elections, is also a self-described centrist who deplores the de facto two-party system, in which the left and the right have taken turns in office.

The Catholic daily La Croix - for the record Bayrou is a fervent Catholic and the father of six children - gives over its front page to the story under the headline "A new dynamic at the centre."

The paper's cautious conclusion is that "the alliance could promote a recomposition of French political life".

It's hard to argue with "could", of course.

Right-wing Le Figaro is dismissive of the news: "Move along, nothing to see," the paper scoffs.

Le Figaro reports from the campaign HQ of centre-right candidate François Fillon where, the paper says, the centris alliance was regarded as a "non-event".

Fillon himself is quoted as saying: "It does not change anything".

On Bayrou, "it's not his first try," says one of Fillon's colleagues. "He tried with Ségolène Royal in 2007, but he could not reach an agreement. He tried with François Hollande in 2012. Good on him! It will not work any better with Macron than with the previous ones."

Le Monde quotes an official of former Prime Minister Fillion's party les Republicains who says, "Over the long term. François Bayrou has never attracted our voters."

Le Monde leads its front page with the news: François Bayrou announced on Wednesday that he would not stand for the presidential election and would join the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron.

The paper says Bayrou's decision was triggered by what he called "the situation of extreme risk posed by the extreme right". Le Monde's calm conclusion is that Bayrou's support consolidates Macron's position as the centrist candidate for president at the risk of losing voters on the left.

Elsewhere, the paper details Macron's economic programme which he announced yesterday, noting that he wants to reduce public spending by €60 billion in five years. Along with plans to reduce the number of civil service posts by 120,000.

Which sounds remarkably similar to cuts promised by François Fillon..

The front page of left-leaning Libération ignores the Macron-Bayrou bromance choosing instead to attack it's bête noire the leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen.

"Dirty Hands. Head High," it declares. A refernce to an old FN slogan "Clean Hands. Head High".

The paper says the filers of investigators are getting fat as the judiciary look into the party's affairs.

Inside it reminds us of the indictment of Le Pen's head of cabinet, suspected of fictitious employment as an assistant at the European Parliament.

In spite of this, Marine Le Pen continues to lead in the opinion polls, Libé notes, with a mixture of puzzlement and regret.

In fact, it's old news which, truth be told, hasn't bothered people in France very much. It's not their money.

The European Parliament is witholding Le Pen's salary. But, she doesn't appear too bothered either.

It looks like Libé sees Le Pen as a more credible threat than those centrist lovebirds Macron and Bayrou.

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