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Benoît Hamon French press review Press review Elections Socialist Party François Fillon

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French press review 31 January 2017

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There's Donald Trump, annoying just about everyone; Benoît Hamon trying to get his Socialist colleagues to kiss and make up; François and Penelope Fillon telling judges at the national financial court that they never did anything wrong. And there's François Baroin, hanging around with an enigmatic smile.


Le Monde gives the front-page treatment to Donald Trump, suggesting that the very survival of American democracy is threatened by the new president's decisions to close US borders to refugees and to the nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries.

The centrist daily also notes that Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, has been encouraging Americans to protest against the orders signed by his successor. A statement from Obama describes him as "in fundamental disagreement with the idea of discriminating against people because of their religion or beliefs".

Judges in the states of New York and Virginia have already blocked the presidential orders. The authorities in Washington State plan to challenge the decrees in a federal court, saying no one, not even the president, is above the constitution.

Hamon election causes Socialist crisis

Over at right-wing daily Le Figaro, they just can't get over Sunday's election of rebel Socialist Benoît Hamon as the left's candidate for the French presidential bash.

The conservative paper says the flight of voters from the left to the centrist Emmanuel Macron has already begun, and is likely to gather momentum. How they can know this is anyone's guess but they certainly don't think much of Hamon at Le Figaro.

They say the newly elected contender now faces a difficult few days as he tries to convince the party's right wing that he represents the best chance of saving French socialism from going down the gurgler.

Le Figaro also draws attention to the dilemma facing President François Hollande who now sees two former ministers who jumped ship from his government -Hamon and Macron - in the race to replace him.

Hollande also has to keep in mind the fact that the Socialist family is not the happiest bunch of campers right now and a misplaced word either against or in favour of one of the renegade ministers could bring the whole show down in flames. Expect benevolent neutrality from the outgoing president.

Meanwhile, over at the mainstream right . . .

Left-leaning Libération turns the spotlight on another presidential contender, the right-wing former prime minister François Fillon, currently having a spot of trouble with the legal authorities because he may have been paying his wife a lot of state money for swinging the lead.

Fillon says he and his missus are absolutely innocent, and the whole thing is a plot hatched by mysterious "negative forces" who want to keep him out of the top job.

He told supporters at the weekend that he has only one bank account. But Libé points out that he has to be lying, since everyone elected to the French National Assembly has to create a separate account to which expenses payments are paid. The idea of the separation is to ensure that the expenses are not used for personal enrichment. Unused expenses have to be paid back at the end of an MP's mandate.

In fact, it all turns out to have been a misunderstanding. Since the article was written, Fillon has been in touch with Libé to say that he meant he uses only one bank but that he has several accounts there. So that's all right.

On the more serious question of Mrs Fillon's job and the amounts she has been paid, Libération sees him-the-husband as very much out on a limb, with little support from his Republicans colleagues, a direct result of Fillon's own vision of politics as a solitary exercise.

The couple were interviewed separately by judges at the national financial court yesterday.

Libé says the mainstream right, while publicly asserting that their man is fine and will recover from this slight setback, is working on a plan B behind closed doors.

If Fillon is in serious trouble to the point where he has to step down as a contender, the Chirac- and Sarkozy-era minister, François Baroin, is now being spoken of as a possible spare wheel.