French newspaper round-up 6 January 2017

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As we draw closer to the Socialist Party’s primaries (January 22), the papers are mostly talking about the candidates – their programmes, views and proposed changes. Benoit Hamon seems to be the talk of the day.

Le Monde leads with Far-Left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who questioned whether it was worth bothering with a Socialist candidate?

In an interview, he lays out his social and economic programme for the upcoming presidential elections, and criticises the ruling Socialist Party, which, he says, has no grounds and no decent programme to permit it to be re-elected this year.

He also explains his position on Syria, saying that sanctions against Russia will lead nowhere.

But Le Monde also leads with “Ideas to fight the rise of populism” – the European Union is facing unprecedented crisis, and the article says that instead of having a plan to move forward, some countries might be tempted to shut themselves off.

The paper, in association with prominent foreign papers such as Spain’s El Pais, the UK’s The Guardian, Italy’s La Stampa, Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung – to name only a few – debates and reports on issues the EU is struggling with today.

Top of the topics? The migrant crisis, or rather, the lack of solidarity some countries have shown, which says a lot, the paper explains, about where the values of the EU stand today.

This is not the EU that European nations set out to build decades ago, the paper argues.

Le Monde does not only mention Brexit as an example of failure of the EU, but it says that the March 2016 agreement between Ankara and the 28 nation bloc to send refugees who arrive in Greece back to Turkey, sent a strong message, which left the Union in disarray.

Left leaning Libération has Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon on its cover.

The “outsider”, it calls him, explaining his presidential programme, and his main measure to date, the one thing everyone is talking about: the need for a basic income for everyone, which according to him, would be “an invitation to blossom”.

The paper publishes a long interview with the Socialist candidate, during which he first of all says he is confident he is going to win the party primaries this month, but who also talks about labour changes – first thing he would do if elected President is to revoke the latest controversial Labour Law.

The legalisation of cannabis, (he is the only one to support it, because he thinks it is the only way to gain control over France’s vast illegal market); and the migrant crisis – which he intends to bring up as one of the main topic during the debate against his peers.

Hamon is only the first to go through the thorough Libération “great” interview before the primaries that will decide who the Socialist candidate will be. Arnaud Montebourg, Vincent Peillon et Manuel Valls will follow in just a short time.

Right leaning Le Figaro devotes much coverage to the primaries, with on top of the page, the TV interview former-Prime Minister, and Socialist candidate Manuel Valls gave Thursday evening, with the headline “Valls struggles to justify his contradictions”. Le Monde on its online edition gives a full summary of this TV interview as well, highlighting his main topics.

What everyone will remember though, is Valls, sounding confident, saying the controversial 49.3 was something he did not have a choice to make; it was “insisted upon him”.

Valls says he has “changed”, reports Le Figaro, saying he had to considering that the main problems of 2017 are nothing like those of 2012. Today, we face terrorism, globalisation, Donald Trump…

Speaking of which, Le Figaro has an article on how Trump is all over Twitter, being more of a scandalous macho than a real politician, says a New York Times journalist. Also, the paper says this is a 140-sign communication tool which China cannot tolerate any longer.

But about the Socialist primaries, Le Figaro also gives the floor to Benoit Hamon, which it dubs “the adversary who shouldn’t be underestimated”.

Again, he is called the “outsider” – in reference to people saying he could play it like Francois Fillon, and win out of nowhere. The paper says the parallel is “flattering” yet “dangerous”.

And if in Libé the so-called outsider sounds confident, Le Figaro reports that earlier this week, he said he did not want to get ahead of himself and the results.

Things could, after all, go any way. We will have to wait for voting to start on the 22nd of January to find out.