This is the week after the devastating defeat of President Hollande’s left-leaning majority in the departmental elections. The coalition lost more than half of the cantons they had ruled for decades. The opposition UMP party and their Centrist allies now control two-thirds of France’s 101 departments – 66 against 34 for the left. Close to 49 per cent of eligible voters stayed at home during the double ballet.
No surprise then that Marianne wasted no time to name President Hollande the big loser of the election. He is paying the price of political cynicism after promising to make the country dream again and to implement reforms he couldn’t deliver. His cowardly game, according to Marianne, has transformed the Left into a battle field for traitors, cuckolds and masochists.
The left is not just deeply divided for ideological reasons, says Le Figaro Magazine. It has been abandoned by the people it argues for.
L'Obs is alarmed at the rise of the far-right National Front to sweep close to 25 per cent of the vote. It speaks to Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, widely supported by the Left but held in contempt by the conservatives and the far right about the rise of populism and extremism in France.
Taubira says the Left committed a grave error by pursuing a conservative agenda. In the interview, she appeals for a cabinet reshuffle so as to bring in the Greens, and the so-called “frondeurs” or Socialist backbenchers in parliament staging a rebellion against the government.
L’Express sat down with Julien Dray, a co-founder of French anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme and a long-time friend to President Hollande. He attributes the Socialists’ divorce with people to what he describes as the loss of intellectual hegemony.
What next for Francois Hollande, wonders Le Point. The right-wing weekly warns that the president could be tempted to abandon his reform agenda after suffering his third consecutive defeat in the polls.
Le Figaro Magazine says UMP leader Sarkozy has a plan to wreck the growing political fortunes of National Front leader Marine Le Pen. According to the journal, the strategy will consist of frontal attacks, no electoral alliances or moralising arguments, and clear messages on economic and identity issues for every single voter who has crossed over to the FN.
Marianne advises Sarkozy not be so enthusiastic.
The judicial spring of the UMP promises to be very hot, with its champion sitting in the front row, it says. The left-leaning publication runs down the list: at the top, the UMP’s settlement of fines imposed on Sarkozy personally for breaking campaign spending limits – an affair in which three of the former president’s aides have been indicted.
Meanwhile, there is the so-called Bygmalion affair, or the UMP's fake invoices worth 10 million euros to hide Sarkozy’s campaign spending and the ongoing probe by French investigators into allegations that his successful 2007 election campaign received 50 million euros in illicit funding from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
And speaking of affairs, Le Canard Enchaîné makes more revelations about the under-fire CEO of Radio France, Mathieu Gallet, accused of squandering 100,000 euros on refurbishing his office and 90,000 euros more per year on a public relations consultant.
The satirical weekly reports that the budget inspection office in the Ministry of Finance has found out that the 38 year-old chief executive also spent 125,000 euros to renovate his office and 1 million euros on consultancy fees during his time as head of the public audiovisual institute, INA.
Le Canard warns about the risk of war breaking out between France and the Vatican. According to the paper, Paris no longer has an envoy to the Holy See since 1 March as Rome drags its feet to accredit long-serving diplomat Laurent Stefanini because he is openly gay.
The satirical weekly reports that Prime Minister Manuel Valls has described the attitude of the Vatican as share provocation after President Hollande ruled out any intention to give in.
L’Express raises an alert about a storm gathering in the Franco-Gabonese skies. According to the weekly, Libreville is furious at Paris for allowing a 777 Boeing belonging to President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s air fleet to be impounded at Orly airport since last month. The injunction was allegedly issued at the request of a Swiss aircraft maintenance firm, claiming a debt of 7 million euros from Gabon.
Another factor reportedly poisoning ties between the two bedfellows is the regrouping in Paris of former barons of Gabon’s ruling PDG party who have crossed over to the opposition. The latest arrival expected on the banks of the River Seine is René N’Demezo’o Obiang who stormed out of the party on 28 February, according to L’Express.