Former French finance minister Christine Lagarde is on the front pages after a court ordered an investigation into possible misconduct. The newly-appointed head of the IMF approved a settlement to a businessman friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008. Also in the French press: the crackdown in Syria, and bikini-clad pro-Medvedev "stripteaseuses". That's the focus for this Friday, 5th August 2011.
The French press is leading on the former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF, and her connection to a scandal that dates back to the 1990s. The left-wing daily Liberation headlines: “Lagarde les pieds dans le Tapie”, a way of saying she is being dogged by what’s known here as the Tapie scandal. Bernard Tapie is a larger than life maverick businessman-turned-politician-turned-actor. Lagarde has been accused of exceeding her authority by cutting short a legal battle between him and French bank Crédit Lyonnais when she was finance minister. She sent the case to private arbitration and Tapie was compensated with public money in what has been one of the biggest scandals of President Sarkozy’s administration. Libération editorial writer Nicolas Demorand asks: “Is it a Tapie scandal? A Lagarde scandal? Or a Sarkozy scandal?” He points out that Lagarde has never concealed her disregard for Tapie. The main question, he says, is what role the Elysée Palace played. Tapie was a Socialist minister at one point under Mitterrand, but a supporter of Sarkozy at the time Lagarde made her decision.
The right-wing daily Le Figaro also leads on the former French Finance Minister headlining: “Tapie Scandal - a judicial investigation will look at Lagarde’s role.” Editorial writer Yves Thréard argues she inherited a "hot potato" when she was appointed finance minister and was not responsible for cooking it.
Editorial writer Olivier Picard - in Les Derniéres Nouvelles d’Alsace, a regional paper in eastern France - argues that Christine Lagarde “is without doubt not responsible for what happened” and “there lies the problem”. He says it’s a strong bet Lagarde had no direct connection with Tapie - however, she could pay the price.
Syria is also getting extensive coverage. President Bashar al-Assad is continuing a carrot-and-stick approach to deter protesters. He is currently engaged in a fierce crackdown in Hama and has also announced moves towards multi-party democracy. Le Monde’s cartoonist Plantu shows the gun of a Syrian tank pointing at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is screaming through a megaphone: “STOP, if not, we’ll do … nothing”. The UN Security Council condemned the Assad crackdown late Wednesday. The cartoon shows a Chinese representative chiming in with “you are being too aggressive again”. That’s to Ban Ki-moon.
Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France, meanwhile, says Assad’s move towards a multi-party democracy appears to be in direct response to the UN Security Council's statement of condemnation. The paper says however that the move is an illusion, “even cynical”, given the crackdown.
And finally, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev is making the French papers too. Le Figaro has a story on the “Medvedev Girls” with a photo of what it calls “stripteaseuses” in central Moscow who wanted to show their appreciation of their head of state and his anti-beer drive. All part of racy campaigning ahead of elections next year.