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French press review 16 September 2011

Text by: William Niba
4 min

Sarkozy’s visit to Libya alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron, steals the limelight from Thursday night’s Socialist Party presidential debate.


Le Figaro splashes a photograph of a beaming Sarkozy taken as he and Cameron worked enthusiastic crowds during their short trip to Benghazi. Le Figaro says they were welcomed in the rebel lair as liberators, with Paris and London promising the country’s new leaders help in finishing the war.

While President Sarkozy paraded in Libya, Libération warns that Tripoli is still “in search of political authority”. The newspaper says three weeks after the fall of the capital, power rests in the hands of local councils set up by vigilante groups and insurgents.


These cells report to popular salvation councils whose members are unknown to the National Traditional Council. One Western diplomat told the paper that some NTC officials give the impression they still don’t realise it is their responsibility now to rule the country. Libé argues that Islamists are taking advantage of the power vacuum, to solidify their influence over the country through NGOs.

Aujourd’hui en France/Le Parisien raises eyebrows at the cost of the French war effort in Libya. France has spent an estimated 350 million euros, according to the Parisian, which quotes figures released by French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet.

The newspaper says “Opération Harmattan”, launched on 19 March cost 1.2 million euros per day, and the government is now eager to scale down the air raids despite plans to keep up the hunt for fugitive Kadhafi.

The ruling party’s chief whip in parliament Christian Jacob told Les Echos that while Sarkozy displayed his new international stature in Libya, the socialists were holed up in a small room for a little primaries’ debate.

The economic newspaper isn’t convinced as Sarkozy strategists claim, that the timing of the Libyan trip wasn’t a ploy to steal the limelight from the socialists. Les Echos argues that political coups of this nature are a common practice in UMP party circles.

It however raises the concerns of some officials within the ruling party who fear that the photo-op in Libya could turn out to be a flop. They doubt the relevance of a Sakozy “beauty contest” at this time of austerity and hard economic choices for struggling French families.

This morning’s regional papers evaluate Thursday night’s televised debate involving all six candidates in the race to pick the Socialist Party’s candidate for the 2012 presidential elections.

The score is “Socialists One, UMP Nil”, according to L’Alsace. The paper says the socialists scored big on the media front, by presenting their six candidates to the nation during prime time TV, relegating President Sarkozy’s “mission accomplished” trip to Libya on the backburner.

La Dépêche du Midi described the debate as “correct, respectful, serious and rich in proposals”, something that was missing in French politics.

Le Républicain Lorrain says the debate was a “windfall” for newcomers Arnaud Montebourg and Manuel Valls whose candidacies need more exposure, as opposed to front runners François Hollande and Martine Aubry and has-been Ségolène Royal.

It was certainly the “hour of truth” for the Socialist Party, and a “big gamble that paid off in the end”, according to Le Midi Libre, after its political plans were torpedoed by the sexual peccadilloes of DSK and the euro financial crisis.

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