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French press review 22 September 2014


The French front pages are coming down with a bad dose of the Nicolas Sarkozys this morning. The man is everywhere, and the tone is menacing, not to say martial.

He has "launched the battle for 2017," according to conservative Le Figaro, 2017 being the year of France's next presidential election.

He has put the right wing on the warpath, according to left wing Libération.

Sarkozy's return is a symptom of a sick democracy, according to communist L'Humanité.

And catholic La Croix wonders at the French capacity to welcome back defeated political figures as if they were national saviours.

There are a number of things to consider. The current socialist president is so deeply unpopular, the boys on the right think 2017 has got to be their year. The problem is that the same boys have been smilingly engaged in the political equivalent of a street fight for months now, publicly proclaiming the unity of the mainstream conservative family while privately stabbing and gouging in a style reminiscent of the best of the Borgias.

Neither François Fillon nor Alain Juppé will be happy to see Sarkozy back in business.

At least Juppé seems to be taking it all with a pinch of salt. He's choosing a sporting metaphor, saying the match has kicked off and he's going to compete to the final whistle.

On the question of Sarkozy's complicated judicial situation, Juppé, who has had his own legal problems in the past, suggested it might be unwise to get down to a detailed scorecard.

François Fillon has also gone for the sporting metaphor, but he's clearly into blood sports. "I don't believe in saviours," he said yesterday, "I believe in ideas. The question is not who can beat Hollande. In theory, anyone could do that."

La Croix explains the French admiration for politicians who have done time in the wilderness as a hang-over from the era of General De Gaulle, the war hero who found the peace-time going tough, vanished, and then came back with a bang in 1958.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

This poses two difficulties, according to the catholic daily. In the first place, it creates the impression that French politicians cling to power, whatever the price. Secondly, it slows down the pace of change in the political ranks, keeping the young on the sidelines while the old guys come back for the umpteenth time. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi is probably delighted and encouraged by Sarko's return to the fray.

There are two troublingly contradictory stories on the science pages of Le Monde.

One asks the question: what is likely to be the size of the human population of our planet in the year 2100. And the other warns that last year saw carbon dioxide emissions reach levels which coincide with the most pessimistic of the four possible futures predicted by climate scientists.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

I'll spare you most of the statistics and summarise: 86 years from now, there are probably going to 11 billion of us, struggling to breathe increasingly polluted air, stay above rising sea levels and avoid being cooked by sunlight unimpeded by the ravaged ozone layer. To say nothing of the question of three solid meals a day, already beyond our capacities with a population of only seven billion.

According to the Global Carbon Project report, released last night, every Chinese national is now emitting more CO² per head than the average European. But the Americans remain the serious players, beating European pollution levels by a factor of two or three.

One population scientist tells Le Monde that our only chance is a massive epidemic, or an even more massive war . . . something decently catastrophic to boost the death rate. Have a good day.

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