US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. 7 billion thirsts, and not enough drinkable water (Detroit Free Press)

On this threshold day, our greatest global challenge is figuring out how to get more people greater access to the planet's most precious resource, writes this editorial.

2. The battle of military suicides (Boston Globe)

The Veterans Administration estimates that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes, Juliette Kayyem reporst -- and the problem is growing.

3. Obama's spooky economy (Washington Times)

GDP may be up 2.5 per cent but consumer uncertainty casts a shadow over news of temporary growth, argues this WT editorial.

4. Flat Taxes and Angry Voters (New York Times)

This editorial reports that more Americans are questioning the Republicans' flat tax plans, which keep rewarding the rich.

5. 10 reasons why Russia still matters (Politico)

According to Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill, Russia is a player whose choices affect our vital interests in nuclear security and energy.

6. Uganda intervention a U.S. worthy cause (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Removing the Lord's Resistance Army seems an obtainable goal and has diplomatic dividends, argues this editorial.

7. Beyond Occupy (New York Times)

Bill Keller writes that in India, Anna Hazare and his team show what protest can accomplish.

8. GOP Not Giving Obama Enough Credit on Libya (Roll Call)

By any objective standard, the Obama approach to Libya has been a huge success, notes Norman Ornstein: not a single American life was lost, the United States worked in concert with the Arab League and in partnership with its NATO allies, and a hated and oppressive regime was toppled.

9. Wedding days are losing their way (USA Today)

Ceremonies should be about commitment and marriage, not mere romance, says Henry G. Brinton.

10. The zombies with six legs (Los Angeles Times)

The human undead have nothing on the creepiness of some insects, writes biologist Marlene Zuk. They routinely do things too grotesque even for horror movies.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Emmanuel Macron's French election victory may change less than most expect

The centrist is not the first to succeed from outside the traditional parties in the Fifth Republic.

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French presidential election, and will face Marine Le Pen in the run-off.

The numbers that matter: Emmanuel Macron 24 per cent, Le Pen 21 per cent, François Fillon 19.9 per cent, Jean Luc Mélenchon 19.9 per cent and Benoît Hamon 6.3 per cent.

According to the polls - which came within 0.9 per cent of the correct result in the first round - Macron will easily defeat Marine Le Pen in the second round.

The single transferable take that compares Macron to Hillary Clinton and Le Pen to Trump ignores a few things. Not least his programme, the different electoral system and the fact that Macron is popular - the most popular politician in France, in fact. Jean Luc Mélenchon declined to back a candidate in the second round and will poll his supporters on who his leftist bloc should back. But it's not comparable to the feud between Bernie Sanders and Clinton - which, in any case, was overwritten. Most Sanders supporters backed Clinton in November. The big story of that election was that the American mainstream right backed Donald Trump despite his manifold faults.

The French mainstream right is a very different beast. Fillon has already thrown his weight behind Macron, warning against the "violence" and "intolerance" of the National Front and the "economic chaos" its programme would inflict. And to the extent that it matters, Hamon has also endorsed his former party colleague, saying that there is a difference between a "political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

So, if he wins, has everything changed, changed utterly? That's the line in most of the papers this morning, but I'm not so sure. French politics has always been more fissiparous than elsewhere, with parties conjured up to facilitate runs for the Presidency, such as the Democratic Movement of perennial candidate, now Macron backer François Bayrou, and Mélenchon's own Left Party.

I'm dubious, too, about the idea that Macron is the first to succeed from outside the traditional centre-right and centre-left blocs in the history of the Fifth Republic. That honour surely goes to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a popular finance minister in a Gaullist administration, who ran on a independent centrist platform in 1974 - and won the presidency.

Giscard d'Estaing had no majority in the National Assembly and had to "cohabit" with his former colleagues on the Gaullist right. In the long run, far from upending the left-right pattern of French politics, he continued it. (Indeed, d'Estaing is now a member of the centre-right Republican Party.)

You don't have to look hard to see the parallels with Macron, a popular finance minister in a Socialist administration, running on an independent centrist platform and very likely to win, too.

France's underreported and under-polled legislative elections in June will give us an idea of the scale of the change and how lasting it may be. If, freed from the taint of Fillon's scandals, the French Republicans can win the legislative elections then talk of the "death of the traditional centre-right" is going to look very silly indeed.

Equally, while Hamon won the presidential nomination, the Socialist Party's legislative candidates are largely drawn from the party's right. If En Marche!, Macron's new party, can go from no seats at all to the largest group but are short of a majority their natural allies in getting through Macron's programme will be from the remains of the Socialists. Far from irrevocably changing the pattern of French politics, Macron's remarkable success may simply mark a period of transition in the life of the French Left.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496