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French press review 25 September 2017


President Macron suffers crushing defeat in Senate elections for harsh reform agenda. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel win's 4th consecutive term in nightmare election which sends her looking for coalition partners.

We begin with reactions to the results of Sunday's Senatorial elections here in France marked by a major setback for President Emmanuel Macron's party.

This after his Republicans on the Move movement took only 28 seats out of the 171 that were up for grabs in the 348-seat upper house.

The conservative Republicans and the allies were the main winners with 159 seats after the election, up from 142 presently while the Socialists managed to return 81 senators out of 86 they held in the previous house, despite their crushing defeat in the presidential and legislative elections.

While the outcome is not expected to significantly impact Macron's ability to push through his economic reform agenda, including an overhaul of rigid French labour laws, several papers believe the result will complicate Macron's plans to make changes to France's constitution, especially his plans to slash the number of seats in parliament by a third.

"Emmanuel Macron missed a step in the Senate staircase" headlines le Figaro. According to the right-wing publication he was sanctioned for the deep cuts amounting to 300 million euros he made in the local and regional council budgets.

It's worth noting that only the so-called "grands electeurs" made up of mayors and councilors vote in Senatorial elections under French law.

Most of them are reportedly unhappy about Macron's pledge to scrap property taxes for some 80 percent of French citizens, revenues which previously went into the budgets of local administrations.

Macron suffers first setback in the Senate, comments Le Parisien. The publication notes that the French leader is very far from the comfortable majority his party's majority enjoys in the National Assembly.

For its part, Liberation says he simply failed to catch Senators' train, penalized by an unfavorable voting system and unpopular measures pursued by his government.

La Montagne Centre France picks out the 13 billion-euro shortfall in in funds allocated for local councils.

According to Ouest-France it shouldn't be a surprise then that Macron's triumphant march to the Elysée Palace and his landslide ride into Parliament has come to an abrupt halt.

The paper says the lesson is all the more telling for Macron who loves reminding the nation that democracy is not practiced in the streets but in the ballot box.

For L’Est Républicain the Macron tsunami that hit the mainland during the Presidential elections ran aground at the steps of the Senate building.

La Charente Libre contrasts the mediocre performance of President Emmanuel Macron's Republicans on the Move party with the outcome of Sunday's general elections in Germany where Chancellor Merkel was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term.

The paper, however, explains that her Christian Democratic Union party's victory over the weakened opposition SPD comes with mixed feelings as it is marked by the historic entry of the far-right anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag.

Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc scored 33 percent, according to final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.

The election marked a breakthrough for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.6 percent became the third strongest party and vowed to "go after" Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.

For the Charente publication, the verdict from the German polls is bound to haunt Macron who is wary of Merkel's political moves including the possibility that she may invite the SPD to join another governing coalition which is capable of marginalizing the influence of the far-right.

Such a move could spell the end of his European reform project, according to La Charente Libre.

L'Opinion claims that Merkel got re-elected because she incarnates stability and the imperative felt in Germany to protect vital national interests.

The right-wing newspaper argues that on the heels of Brexit and Donald Trump's isolationist policies, the German Chancellor is fully aware of her responsibilities over the European Union and the burden the Germans are not willing to accept: more sacrifice in the name of solidarity and to compromise their stringent management culture for new untested governance rules.

Sud-Ouest credits Merkel's re-election to her proven ability to take risks like she did in 2015 by welcoming a million refugees.

It also underscore the problems she faces resiting an increasingly ferocious and at times xenophobic opposition as well as political partners difficult to deal with, while staying the course of revamping European reconstruction with her French partner.

For Le Journal de la Haute-Marne, the emergence of the far-right AFD is also the other side of the coin of German grand coalitions which consist of reaching a consensus among the major parties on a program of government.

The paper, however, raises a major inconvenience that of leaving the middle ground of politics in the hands of extremists.

As the Haute-Marne daily observes, what the SPD which scored a meagre 20 percent of the vote aspires for, is to avoid being trapped in another alliance of the unwilling with Angela Merkel's CDU. 

The paper holds that their goal is to push her  to form a new coalition with the Liberals and Greens, an option which is bound to make her new term of office a rocky ride.

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