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BenoƮt Hamon French press review Manuel Valls Press review Primary elections Socialist Party

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French press review 30 January 2017


There's a lot in the papers about yesterday's second and decisive round in the French socialist presidential primary. The battle was won Benoît Hamon, but who is going to win the war? That will be probably be decided between the National Front, the Republicans and an independent called Macron. Unless Hamon can go on upsetting applecarts!

We now know the name of the Socialist candidate to be sacrificed on the altar of this spring's presidential election.

With an increased number of voters compared to last week's first round, yesterday's face-off resulted in a clear victory for the rebel Socialist and former eduction minister, Benoît Hamon, former prime minister Manuel Valls.

Hamon got nearly 59 percent of the votes, Valls the remaining 41 percent.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro welcomes the news by ignoring it, at least as far as the top of the front page is concerned.

The conservative paper's main headline reads "Anything could happen in the presidential election".

Current opinion polls suggest that François Fillon of the right-wing Republicans and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron will each get about 22 percent, losing out to first-round winner Marine Le Pen with 25 percent.

The reason Le Figaro is not too excited about last night's outcome is that, well, they're only Socialists and, as things stand, the best Benoît Hamon can hope for in the real presidential battle is fourth place, ahead of far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

How far can surprise winner Hamon go?

Left-leaning Libération sees the surprise result of the Socialist selection process as the coming-of-age of Benoît Hamon, a rogue politician who has been able to force the mainstream to discuss his ideas.

Libé is obviously cautious but the left-leaning daily does suggest that, if Hamon can maintain his extraordinary trajectory - from rank outsider to winner in less than three months - then he can hope to upset some of the big names when the real fighting starts.

Winner faces uphill struggle

Le Monde welcomes last night's winner with the warning that he has three major tasks ahead of him:

Hamon must, according to the centrist paper, bring his supporters together, talk to his left-wing opponents and start convincing the wider electorate that his programme is worthwhile and workable.

So, what exactly is Hamon promising, or threatening, to do?

Le Monde says he's sharp on social issues, institutional reform and the environment, perhaps a little less precise when it comes to the economy.

Hamon's key proposition is the universal revenue, a basic income for everyone. At least initially, it would mean that every French person between the ages of 18 and 25 - there are currently six million of those - would automatically get 600 euros each month from the government, regardless of their other resources. That's a softening of an original proposal to give every citizen 750 euros per month but Hamon has not given up on the idea of a truly universal basic income. It just won't happen immediately. Probably not before 2022.

On institutional questions, Hamon notably wants to limit the use of the controversial constitutional article 49.3 which allows the government to force through disputed legislation without a parliamentary vote. The man he defeated last night, Manuel Valls, for example used 49.3 to ensure the passage of last year's controversal labour reform law.

Tax people into being more green

Hamon wants to use VAT to force producers to be more environment-friendly. The more you pollute, the more you pay. He's also against the mistreatment of animals, wants to ban diesel engines by 2025 and is in favour of cutting French dependence in nuclear electricity by 50 percent.

Hamon would create a police force to protect us all against discrimination, would legalise voluntary euthanasia and cannabis, protect whistleblowers and authorise medically assisted conception for single women and same-sex couples.

As for the economy, Hamon is basically against the major changes made under the Hollande governments. That, after all, is why he resigned his ministerial post in 2014.

Thus, he has promised to undo the Hollande labour reforms, boost the basic wage by 10 percent and encourage the reduction of the working week to under 35 hours.

Crucially, he wants Brussels to lay off France and stop insisting on the three percent limit for the budget deficit as a proportion of gross national product.