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France

French press review 1 March 2016

media DR

Since this is Super Tuesday, when about a dozen US states vote in primary elections to decide who should represent the Democrats and Republicans in the next American presidential race, most French papers look at the likely outcomes and their implications for American and global politics. Why is Donald Trump doing so well? Should we be worried?

Everyone agrees that Super Tuesday is a crucial moment in the selection process of the two big parties' candidates for the US presidency.

The main story in Le Monde notes that Trump is the big favourite to win on the Republican side, with Ted Cruz hoping to do well in his home state of Texas. Marco Rubio has the support of the Republican hierarchy, who are terrified by the progress being made by Trump, but Rubio still has to collect his first primary win. When the dust settles after today's votes, there are likely to be further withdrawals from the list of Republican contenders, a simplification of the battle which may make the war against Trump a little easier to organise.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton is widely expected to collect further victories, boosted by black voters.

Left-leaning Libération looks at promises made by both Clinton and her main rival, Bernie Sanders, to increase the minimum wage, asking if America is on the brink of a new New Deal.

The original New Deal was President Franklin Roosevelt's 1930s economic policy, aimed at helping the poorest people in America survive the Great Deprerssion while getting the economy back on its feet after the 1929 Crash.

Whether it worked or not is still debated among historians and economists.

Now Sanders wants to raise the basic minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, while Clinton is holding the line at 12 dollars. The Republicans are calling it madness. The current legal minimum is about seven dollars, a level which obliges the federal government to spend an estimated 17 billion dollars every year in supplementary contributions like food coupons and free health care for the 53 per cent of the workforce who would otherwise qualify as "poor" because earning less than 12 dollars an hour.

Both right-wing Le Figaro and Catholic La Croix wonder about the success of Donald Trump, the hard-right billionaire with the worst hair in world politics.

La Croix calls him the "candidate of bitterness", a reference to his crowd-pleasing rants against Muslims and Mexicans, not to mention his retweeting of a quote by 1930s Italian fascist leader Umberto Mussolini and his endorsement by veteran French far-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Trump's most recent outrage was his refusal to condemn the racist lynchmob mentality of the Ku Klux Klan. And he's not finished offending people, not by a long shot.

So why is he the Republican front-runner?

Both La Croix and Le Figaro agree that the answer lies in the failure of mainstream politicians to address the concerns of the American middle class, increasingly under pressure in a country where the gap between rich and poor is now so wide that those in the middle clearly have more in common with the poor than with the super-rich. And they hope for salvation from a big-mouthed billionaire.

Le Figaro's editorial says Trump is a warning to all politicians, everywhere. He is the anti-system candidate, the man who speaks frankly where others hide behind the veils of the "politically correct". He has found willing ears in an angry middle class that sees itself losing ground. And he has gone from being a joke to a serious threat. Simply by speaking the language of the common man.

Both Libération and communist paper L'Humanité report the fact that the French government has been obliged to defer the debate on labour reform. Trade unions and Socialist deputies have been among the most violent opponents of a law which is seen by many as too industry-friendly, notably in provisions making it easier and cheaper for bosses to get rid of employees.

The government has given itself two weeks to sort out some of the most contentious issues. Don't expect anything more than cosmetic changes, warns L'Humanité.

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