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French press review 30 October 2018

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Jair Bolsonaro is on the way in, Angela Merkel is on the way out. Is the rise of the far right an inevitable global movement? And what are we doing about the fact that humans are making the world uninhabitable for most other invertebrates?


There's a stark contrast between the paper and electronic editions of centrist daily Le Monde.

Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro of the far right, dominates the front page of the paper paper. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor on the way out, gets the honours in the electronic edition.

The printed headline reads "Bolsonaro triumphant, Brazil totters".

Bolsonaro is described by Le Monde as a cross between Donald Trump and France's far-right veteran, Jean-Marie Le Pen: despised and distrusted by most of his parliamentary colleagues, in favour of giving guns to everyone in a country already renowned for its violence, dismissive of environmental concerns, given to vulgarity, to misogyny, Bolsonaro has promised to take on his arch-enemies which are "communism, socialism and extremism". He also intends to launch a wave of privatisations, selling off state assets and operations.

Angela Merkel is at the other end of the political spectrum.

Yesterday, following the poor performance of her ruling coalition in regional parlaimentary elections in Hesse, the latest in a string of setbacks, Merkel announced that she would see out her current term as chancellor but will not seek re-election at the head of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, of which she has been boss for the past 18 years.

The individual once described by Forbes magazine as "the most powerful woman in the world" is quitting politics. Her CDU has until 2021 to find a replacement, always assuming that Merkel is not chased out of office before then. Whatever happens in the short term, Le Monde suggests that Angela Merkel, the first woman to hold the position of German chancellor, will long be remembered for creating a new way of ruling, despite the contempt expressed by many of her male colleagues and by a large part of the German press.

Worldwide rise of far right

The editorial in right-wing Le Figaro calls Bolsonaro the "tropical Trump," warning that the triumph of yet another populist leader is further proof of the planetary tendency towards the extreme right.

Even if the local conditions vary, immigration was not an issue in the Brazilian vote, but corruption and insecurity were, what we are seeing, says Le Figaro, is a reaction against globalisation. The world market has simply underlined the level of inequality in the distribution of resources, and wiped out traditional social structures. We're all lost. Hence the appeal of Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Salvini, all promising to close borders, refuse imports, give the state back to the people.

Unless the traditional political parties wake up and react, warns Le Figaro, there are plenty more Bolsonaros lurking just over the horizon.

Worldwide decline of wild animals

The news proably won't worry Brazil's president-elect, who has promised to treat the Amazon basin as an exploitable resource, but the world's wild animal population continues to die in silence.

This features on Le Monde's science pages.

According to the report, based on the latest global study by the independent World Wildlife Fund, the globe lost 60 percent of its population of vertebrates between 1970 and 2014. Vertebrates, just to be sure we're all on the same page, are mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians; anything, bascially, with a backbone.

And the rate of decline has been accelerating, with the latest figures showing a tragic increase on the last two studies, carried out in 2014 and 2016.

According to one expert, we are currently living through the sixth mass extinction in global history.

The decline in vertebrate populations is most marked in central and South America, with India, Indonesia and Australia in second place. Then comes sub-Saharan Africa, with Europe and North America the least affected.

The destruction of forests, the spread of modern agriculture and increasing urbanisation are the main reasons for the dramatic decline in animal numbers. Pollution, poaching and climate change aren't helping either.