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French press review 4 December 2017


Does the strong showing by nationalist candidates in yesterday's regional elections on the French island of Corsica mean that the next step is independence? Laurent Wauquiez is virtually assured of being the next leader of the French right-wing Republicans party. But can he save the sinking ship? And why does Donald Trump continue to isolate the United States?

Right-wing daily Le Figaro gives pride of place to what it calls the "tidal wave" of nationalism in this weekend's elections on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

With 45 percent of votes, it looks as if the Corsican nationalists will have a huge majority in the new territorial administration, formed from the amalgamation of the island's two departments.

President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move party collected only 11 percent of the votes.

If they win next week's second round, the leaders of the nationalist camp have promised to give Corsica an unprecedented level of legislative and fiscal autonomy leading, eventually, to a referendum on complete independence from France.

Corsica is not Catalonia

Le Figaro's editorial begins by saying that Corsica is not to be confused with Catalonia, the north-eastern Spanish region which has already voted for independence from Madrid in a controversial referendum.

The crucial difference is that, while the area around Barcelona in Spain could, potentially, survive economically, even the most ardent Corsican independentists admit that life without Paris would be impossible.

So yesterday's nationalist landslide is not a cause for concern, Le Figaro says. The economic development of the island has got to be the priority of the new administration, with an emphasis on boosting local production. This electoral strengthening of the nationalist hand may help.

And there's at least one important lesson to be learned on the mainland. After next Sunday's second round, the new Corsican administration will have 63 elected members as against 103 in the two outgoing assemblies. A form of local government streamlining that, says Le Figaro, the rest of France has so far dramatically failed to imitate.

A leader for losers?

Left-leaning Libération looks ahead to next Sunday's election to choose a new leader for the mainstream-right Republicans party.

The race appears to be already over, with Laurent Wauquiez virtually assured of victory.

He's about as far right as you can get without bumping into Marine Le Pen but it's not clear he will do much to save a party which Libé describes as disabused, divided and devoid of members.

To be accurate, there are actually 238,000 voters recognised by the party's electoral commission. But that's because they decided to stretch the rules on eligibility to include those who were paid up at the end of last year.

Strictly speaking, there are only 100,000 eleigible voters, those who renewed their party membership last June. Wauquiez is hoping for a turnout of between 50,000 and 60,000, far short of the 175,000 who showed up for the Fillon-Copé knife fight back in 2012.

Trump takes US out of migration talks

Le Monde looks at the increasing isolation of the United States under President Donald Trump.

This weekend saw the Americans withdraw from talks on a global migration pact at the United Nations.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador at the UN, explained the move by saying that a global approach to the issue was not compatible with US sovereignty.

Trump has already been harshly critical of the UN, which he considers overly bureaucratic and badly managed. The American leader has warned that his administration will fine-comb the United Nations and its various agencies before deciding if US financial support, currently about half the UN budget, can be maintained.

Since Trump arrived in Washington, the US has withdrawn from the cultural arm, Unesco and from the Paris climate deal, to mention just two biggies.

Trump has also killed the trans-Pacific trade partnership and the North American Free Trade Area.

He has promised that the United States will make their own decisions on crucial strategic and commercial questions. And the guiding principle will be "America first".

When two tribes go to war . . .

And on its international pages, Le Monde carries an interview with Beatrice Fihn, the director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

It's a blunt summary of a global imbalance in which rich countries that claim the right to protect themselves with weapons that have the capacity to destroy the planet refuse the same right to poorer countries. Apart from being dangerous, nuclear weapons are also, paradoxically, a sign of power and prestige. Don't mess with us, is the basic message coming from, say, Pyongyang, because we can wipe out the human race.

Fihn reminds readers of one chilling fact: the Red Cross has warned that, if these weapons of mass destruction are ever used, the international medical aid organisation will be unable to help. There is simply no way of managing a nuclear conflict. There will only be losers.

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