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France

Austerity spells danger for Sarkozy, says French press

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2011-11-09

The French government’s second round of austerity measures has gone down a storm with the national press, who say it could serve as the last straw for voters fed up with President Nicolas Sarkozy, just six months before the presidential election.

Barely three months since the last round of austerity measures, France was met with even stricter belt-tightening instructions on Monday, when Prime Minister François Fillon unveiled a new set of what he described as “sacrifices”. Tax hikes, spending cuts and a higher retirement age sooner than planned – not an austerity package that many would gladly champion.

Conservative sympathisers accepted the measures as a necessary evil which would protect France’s triple A credit rating, criticising instead Sarkozy’s Socialist rival, François Hollande, for failing to address the euro zone crisis. The general public was less impressed. Could this be a final nail in the coffin for the unpopular Nicolas Sarkozy? The press certainly seems to think so.

'Fillon buries Sarkozy'

Libération: “Fillon buries Sarkozy”

France’s leading left-wing daily Libération (photo right) argues that Fillon has buried the triumphant Sarkozy of 2012 with his painful talk of “rigour’. According to a source close to the president, Sarkozy could barely listen to the speech, so fearful he was that it would leave his re-election plans in tatters.

“Rigour as a concept is so appalling to the president; he can’t even utter the word,” the article reads. In an editorial on the same page, it’s argued that he has every right to be concerned. Describing Fillon as a “grave-digger”, the paper says it’s 'Sarkozyism' that’s bankrupt, not the country.

As for the budget itself, the paper accuses the government of failing to clearly acknowledge having resorted to tax hikes, arguing that there were other available options.

'Six-month challenge'

Le Figaro: “Six months for Sarkozy to win the challenge of rigour”

France’s leading conservative daily Le Figaro (left) is one of the only publications to welcome the package, but acknowledges the short time Sarkozy has for it to work in his favour.

After describing Sarkozy and Fillon as “partners facing the storm”, the paper goes on to quote the most melodramatic parts of Fillon’s speech (“The French have entrusted us with a mission/ the president’s hand will not tremble/ the situation is very difficult, and so are our choices, etc). The paper then goes on to stress that no previous French government ever dared announce such strict austerity measures just six months before a presidential election.

They willingly borrow Fillon’s choice of adjective to describe Sarkozy’s part in the plans – “courageous” – before pointing out that his approval rating is higher than it has been since February (at 37%), “a sign that this strategy is paying off”. Already?

A front page editorial on the subject begins with “France is a fantastic country”, and goes on to say that if it doesn’t follow Fillon’s master plan, it may be a fantastic country no more.

'The real price of rigour'

Le Parisien/ Aujhourd’hui en France: “The real price of rigour”

Colourful daily Le Parisien (as well as its national edition, Aujhourd-hui en France, right), proudly sides with its readers, portraying them as the victims of a “convoy of measures”. After angrily pointing out that the majority of the tax rises made will affect individuals rather than companies, the paper then innocently asks its readers whether they think they’ll be affected by the measures in an online poll. Not surprisingly, they almost all answer yes.

'The bill'

France Soir: “The bill”

The closest thing you can get to a tabloid in France, right-wing France Soir leads boldly with “THE BILL”, terrifying readers further with “what the Fillon plan is going to change for you” outlined in red.

They go on to say that Fillon had to scare his audience with “a grave look” in order to prepare them for what he was about to say. The paper focuses on the alteration to the pension reform, which it calculates will add between one and four months to the working lives of those in their late 50s.

The paper also ran an online survey, this time asking readers whether they were satisfied with the plan. Only 8% answered yes.

 

Date created : 2011-11-08

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