World's press weighs up left-right presidential duel

23rd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 23, 2007 (AFP) - Newspapers around the world on Monday predicted a fierce left-right battle to woo the key centre ground in France's presidential race, and also hailed the high first-round turnout as one of the winners.

PARIS, April 23, 2007 (AFP) - Newspapers around the world on Monday predicted a fierce left-right battle to woo the key centre ground in France's presidential race, and also hailed the high first-round turnout as one of the winners.

Columnists from France's leading European Union partners noted a clear desire for change after more than 84 percent of French voters cast ballots in Sunday's vote for a new generation of 50-something leaders.

However, the challenge now for Nicolas Sarkozy, 52, of the right-wing, and his Socialist rival Segolene Royal, 53, to win over centrist Francois Bayrou's electorate by the May 6 run-off dominated.

"Will the 'Tout Sauf Sarkozy' (Anyone But Sarkozy) mood be strong enough to carry Royal into the Elysee Palace?" asked Germany's conservative daily newspaper Die Welt.

Predicting the upcoming battle would not be "gentle", the International Herald Tribune said in an op-ed that "the fight will be for the centre", adding that Sarkozy was a "personality almost as polarizing as George W. Bush."

"He produces extreme reactions of love and hate, and the mobilization against him in the second round will be intense."

Britain's left-of-centre Guardian daily said that Sarkozy remained the favourite but warned that "he will be fought tooth and nail by a resurgent Socialist candidate."

Japanese newspapers said the vote signalled a return to a left-right divide.

"These elections returned to a traditional left-right showdown," the Mainichi Shimbun said.

Austria's Die Presse said in an editorial that if Sarkozy was smart, "he will renounce provocation and show himself as a man of state centred on reforms. That's how he will attract Bayrou's bourgeois to his camp."

El Pais, Spain's centre-left newspaper, said Royal's only chance of beating Sarkozy now would be to "look for the support of Bayrou, but that in principle will not be easy."

The liberal daily El Mundo, in its online edition, described Bayrou's electorate as "the key", while Belgium's La Libre Belgique said for Royal to garner the necessary two thirds of Bayrou's support "seems arduous."

Bayrou has become the "kingpin of upcoming bargaining," said Switzerland's  Le Quotidien jurassien, a view echoed in the country's leading papers in both French and German-speaking Switzerland.

"Bayrou is the arbiter," said Greece's left-independent newspaper Eleftherotypia, while the right-wing Eleftheros Typos commented that "Sarkozy and participation have won."

Similarly, British newspaper The Independent wrote that: "Democracy, contrary to doom-mongers, is alive and well", but noted that both contenders had "a modern view of France and of the world."

"Of all the reassuring aspects of yesterday's election, this is the most reassuring of all."

In France itself, Le Monde referred to a "democratic awakening" after the shock of 2002 when abstentions and a high vote for the political extremes enabled National Front leader Jean-Marie le Pen to squeeze out Socialist Lionel Jospin in the first-round.

"The big loser of the first round is Jean-Marie Le Pen," said Italy's Corriere Della Sera.

Referring to France's highest turnout for more than 40 years, Belgium's Le Soir wrote of a "citizen jolt", cheering the "democratic dynamism", while the Nordic press hailed a "renewal" in French politics.

"The election was a breath of fresh air for French democracy," Danish centre-left daily Politiken said.

Algerian papers reflected the upcoming clash between the left and right-wing hopefuls, with headlines such as "Face to Face Sarkozy-Segolene" and "Segolene stands up to Sarkozy".

"Extreme polarisation" was how German daily Financial Times Deutschland viewed the next two weeks, as it predicted that the campaign grows "tougher, more ruthless and more personal."

Regardless of the outcome, several newspapers seemed to relish that change was likely afoot in France.

"Never mind who's going to win, changes are inevitable," said Russia's Kommersant, while Japan's Asahi Shimbun said: "Other countries in the European Union are hoping for a leadership that aims for reform."

The Times of London said the potential effects of the election were "profound" not only for France but also for the EU and the wider international community.

"France now has the chance to change; does it have the courage to do so?"


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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