French press review 25 April 2012
The crucial question, with 11 days to go to the second round in the French presidential election, would appear to be which of the two survivors will manage to attract the most votes from the far-right Front National. And the other crucial question is, how bad a crime is it for a presidential candidate to attempt to attract any Front National votes at all?
Catholic paper La Croix states the obvious by telling us that the roughly six and a half million people who voted for Marine Le Pen last Sunday are going to have a huge impact on what happens next Sunday-week.
La Croix visits the town of Brachay, where 72 per cent of the population voted for Le Pen in the first round. Just one of the town's 50 residents supported the Socialist contender François Hollande, so he might have some trouble turning that around. Six voted for outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, which is six times better, but still not great.
The reason 31 Brachayens voted for Marine Le Pen has nothing to do with immigration or law and order or halal meat or putting women in burka bags. They are simply fed up to their back teeth with being poor and getting poorer. They regard Hollande and Sarkozy as a choice between cholera and the plague and have turned to the new-look Front National in the hope that Le Pen can offer a real alternative.
The real surprise of last Sunday's results is not the strong showing of the far right, but the new political respectability of the Front National.
Anyone who claims that Front National voters are simply protesting against the
mainstream parties is clearly wrong, says La Croix. This was a vote of support, not of default. Le Pen, the dughter, has created a pool of new party faithful, opening up new areas of strength for her far-right group, notably in rural constituencies in eastern France. And this will give her huge leverage in the upcoming parliamentary elections, especially if the mainstream right of the UMP falls asunder in the wake of a presidential defeat.
Sarkozy has been saying this very morning that there'll be no voting deal with the Front National. That seems to be a rueful acceptance that the party is not offering any deal, because six and a half million voters put them in the driving seat, especially when the wheels are coming off the UMP troop-carrier.
Communist L'Humanité is having a right old rant on its front page. They put Sarkozy and the collaborationist French leader Philippe Pétain side by side, condemning Sarko's decision to hold a big public meeting on 1 May, which is international workers' day and the Front National's Joan of Arc celebration.
The trouble for L'Huma, is that, back in 1940, Pétain criticised trade unions for betraying the working class they were supposed to be representing. Just a few days ago, Sarkozy spoke of the evil of "intermediate bodies", supposed to speak on behalf of the French people but, in reality, stealing their voice.
L'Humanité says Sarkozy is drifting ever further to the right and some of his most virulent attacks are directed against organised labour.
Le Figaro continues to campaign fairly openly for Sarkozy, condemning François Hollande for sticking to his guns on the question of voting rights for foreigners. If the Socialist contender gets elected, he has promised to make sure that all legal residents for five years or longer will be allowed to vote in local elections.
For Le Figaro, this is further proof that Hollande, who likes immigrants, is weak on security and rejects market protectionism, wants to leave France "open to the winds".