US press: pick of the papers

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

1. Mitt Romney: Campaigner without a cause (Washington Post)

Santorum is his most serious challenger yet, says Michael Gerson.

2. From Bad to Worse in Egypt (Wall Street Journal)

The repression of civil society is far worse than anything seen under Hosni Mubarak, writes Daniel Calingaert.

3. The many faces of marriage in America (Los Angeles Post)

The same shift that occurred in opinions about interracial marriage -- from disapproval to approval -- is happening in attitudes about same-sex marriage, argues this editorial.

4. A Better Way to Buy Politicians (New York Times)

President Obama's recent endorsement of a Democratic "super PAC" -- Priorities USA -- that will support his re-election campaign makes one thing clear: money will dominate this year's election like no other in history, says Lindsay Mark Lewis.

5. Has the U.S. lost its will to compete in the global economy? (Washington Post)

Somehow, we need to adapt to a changed competitive landscape, writes Robert J. Samuelson.

6. Re-imagining U.S. infrastructure (Politico)

We need to go far beyond just repairing the systems and structures we have inherited, says this editorial.

7. Santorum's surge (Oregonian)

When this year's presidential campaign began, Rick Santorum looked like a fringe candidate, writes Doyle McManus.

8. Debt collection abuses cry out for new rules (USA Today)

There's something about a credit boom followed by a recession that brings out the worst in debt collectors, says this editorial.

9. A sand-castle recovery (Washinton Times)

Bad policies keep the economy stuck in the mire, argues this editorial.

10. Framers' own words condemn health care reform (Politico)

With the new health care law up for review by the Supreme Court, some advocates assert it would have been supported by the very authors of the Constitution: the Founding Fathers, writes Sen. Mike Johanns.

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French presidential election: Macron and Le Pen projected to reach run-off

The centrist former economy minister and the far-right leader are set to contest the run-off on 7 May.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contest the run-off of the French presidential election, according to the first official projection of the first-round result.

Macron, the maverick former economy minister, running under the banner of his centrist En Marche! movement, is projected to finish first with an estimated 23.7 per cent of the vote, putting him marginally ahead of Le Pen. The leader of the far-right Front National is estimated to have won 21.7 per cent, with the scandal-hit Républicain François Fillon and the left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon tied for third on an estimated 19.5 per cent each. Benoît Hamon, of the governing Socialist Party, is set to finish a distant fourth on just 6.2 per cent. Pollsters Ifop project a turnout of around 81 per cent, slightly up on 2012.

Macron and Le Pen will now likely advance to the run-off on 7 May. Recent polling has consistently indicated that Macron, who at 39 would be the youngest candidate ever to win the French presidency, would probably beat Le Pen with roughly 60 per cent of the vote to her 40. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, he told Agence France Presse that his En Marche! was "turning a page in French political history", and went on to say his candidacy has fundamentally realigned French politics. "To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this," he told supporters. " 'In the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life.' "

Le Pen similarly hailed a "historic" result. In a speech peppered with anti-establishment rhetoric, she said: "The first step that should lead the French people to the Élysée has been taken. This is a historic result.

"It is also an act of French pride, the act of a people lifting their heads. It will have escaped no one that the system tried by every means possible to stifle the great political debate that must now take place. The French people now have a very simple choice: either we continue on the path to complete deregulation, or you choose France.

"You now have the chance to choose real change. This is what I propose: real change. It is time to liberate the French nation from arrogant elites who want to dictate how it must behave. Because yes, I am the candidate of the people."

The projected result means the run-off will be contested by two candidates from outside France's establishment left and right parties for the first time in French political history. Should Le Pen advance to the second round as projected, it will mark only the second time a candidate from her party has reached the run-off. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second round in 2002, but was decisively beaten by Jacques Chirac after left-wingers and other mainstream voters coalesced in a so-called front républicain to defeat the far right.

Fillon has conceded defeat and backed Macron, as have Hamon and the French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. "We have to choose what is best for our country," Fillon said. "Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

"Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children."

Though Hamon acknowledged that the favourite a former investment banker – was no left-winger, he said: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Mélenchon, however, has refused to endorse Macron, and urged voters to consult their own consciences ahead of next month's run-off.

The announcement sparked ugly scenes in Paris in the Place de la Bastille, where riot police have deployed tear gas on crowds gathered to protest Le Pen's second-place finish. Reaction from the markets was decidedly warmer: the euro hit a five-month high after the projection was announced.

Now read Pauline Bock on the candidate most likely to win, and the NS'profiles of Macron and Le Pen.

 

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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