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What the papers said 5 October 2018

rfi English, Oct 5

President Macron evokes the "patriotic" spirit of General De Gaulle, as lawmakers get back to work on his draft reform of the French Constitution.

President Emmanuel Macron celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Fifth Republic's constitution at General de Gaulle's home and burial place, while growing scepticism about his leadership dominate comments in the papers.

Not less than 14 regional newspapers, which followed Monsieur Macron on the visit to the northeastern village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises on Thursday, where the wartime leader is laid to rest, raise serious questions about his ability to see through his ambitious plan to amend the constitution.

Macron announced that lawmakers will resume legislative work on the bill come Monday, as he aims to introduce a dose of proportionate representation in Parliament during the next Parliamentary elections and to downsize Parliament by one third.

L'Opinion argues that despite the delicate horse trading that it will take, things are happening as if the executive is out to instil uncertainties and to destabilise the system.

L'Est républicain, points out that Macron will need to raise a two-thirds majority to be able to amend the basic law which it claims, has stood the test of time.

In 60 years it says, the French Constitution not only resisted a multitude of challenges, including the death in office of President Georges Pompidou, but weathered three co-habitations and 5 dissolutions of parliament.

La Voix du Nord underlines the irony that despite the sacrosanct separation of powers enshrined by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, it is the legislature and the judiciary which will be affected in President Macron's reforms, as he looks to slash the number of MPs by a third, and shut down the State court of Justice where former presidents sit as full-fledged members.

Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace believes Prime Minister Edouard Philippe should have avoided the current constitutional crisis resulting from Gerard Collomb's resignation as Interior Minister, as he is compelled to take over the strategic portfolio while looking for a replacement.

La République des Pyrénées regrets that the bill had to be shelved for all these weeks due to the squabbles with the opposition over the Benalla affair. But it comes to the President's defence, denying there is a crisis, refuting widely spread claims by Macron's critics that state institutions have been paralysed since Collomb's resignation.

La Montagne/Centre France doesn't like all the tinkering going on with the French constitution. The paper says the basic law is to blame for making Emmanuel Macron a "hyper President" who decides about everything and who must take all the blows.

Ouest-France explains that in sixty years the French Constitution has been amended 24 times without satisfying results. It observes that 18 of the modifications were carried out between 1990 and 2008 without bringing greater efficiency in its application.

On top of that, Ouest France notes that the transition from the seven year Presidency to a five year term of office in 2000 has weakened the position of the Prime Minister, further isolating the President. Ouest-France points to the current cabinet crisis an example of the unintended consequence of that reform.

Nice-Matin claims that it is a poor distribution of tasks between President Macron and Edouard Philippe on one hand, and the devaluation of cabinet portfolios that caused proud dignitaries like Nicolas Hulot and Gerard Collomb to leave in search of brighter pastures.

Le Républicain lorrain advises President Macron to stop throwing sound bites at people while working crowds, drawing his attention to how they have bounced back on him at each occasion. The paper's irritation came after Macron urged a small pensioner at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises to stop complaining.

President Macron's comments came a week after the government unveiled billions of euros in tax relief for businesses and households, alongside more budget cuts in the 2019 budget.

The allegedly condescending remarks followed a video sent out via social media, in June in which he complained that France spends "a crazy amount of dough" on social programs.

According to the Lorrain regional newspaper, the retiree at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises who complained to Macron about her tiny pension, didn't get the respect and comfort she deserved from the President.


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