During Nicolas Sarkozy’s five-year tenure, France has lost the prestige she enjoyed in Africa and the Middle East. That is why all those who love that country are wondering whether the change heralded by François Hollande will also apply to foreign policy? In the editorial reproduced below, the Syrian daily Al-Watan takes a positive view. The socialist leader judges the states in the region just as harshly as his predecessor but, true to his principles, he should put an end to the unholy Alliance between the "country of human rights" and the religious dictatorships of the Gulf.
The first round of the French presidential election is over and the second will take place next Sunday. The French people must choose their president for the next five years. They will not do so on the basis of our concerns, but of their own. They have paid little attention to international issues, even though the outgoing president has staked their future abroad. While the domestic crises they are facing are the result of foreign policy options, these have been absent from the public debate.
However, in the first round, the French have basically punished Nicolas Sarkozy. He received the lowest score ever recorded by an outgoing president. This historical shock resulted in two phenomena:
• The return to center stage of a militant left around Jean-Luc Melenchon.
• The highest score ever obtained by the National Front of Le Pen, a nationalist party rooted in the extreme right.
French citizens went to the polls en masse although they found the campaign dull, devoid of stimulating discussions both intellectually and politically. Nevertheless, this campaign bears many lessons and serious consequences.
The French people have rebelled against Nicolas Sarkozy’s style of government, a far cry from democracy. Three quarters of the voters do not identify with his domestic or foreign policies. Many are outraged by the neo-colonialist stance he displayed in Syria, Libya and the Ivory Coast. They lament the interference in other nations’ affairs, which, regardless of the humanitarian justifications, are a return to the colonialism of old, which mostly serves the U.S. empire. Such policies have brought even more submission and social crises to France. In addition, it places her at odds with the emerging forces in the world instead of cooperating with them.
As for the other candidates, although they failed to condemn French interference, they all criticized Nicolas Sarkozy’s unnatural alliance with the extremist religious factions led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They all voiced concern about the rise of this fundamentalism from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. Such an alliance was concluded primarily to serve the neoconservatives and their strategy to dominate the Arab world by bringing to power new dictatorships driven by backward ideologies. It was also aimed at promoting Sarkozy’s personal financial interests and economically thank the friends who had helped him get elected, five years ago. In this regard, investments made by the Princes of the petro-monarchies in France do not go to strategic sectors that could benefit the French people. The only ones to benefit are businessmen who are linked to Nicolas Sarkozy and enjoy his favoritism. However, all these figures are equally related to the U.S. and on international markets defend the interests of Washington, not those of France.
The favorite candidate, Socialist Francois Hollande, has kept a soft focus on his policy towards Syria, but the ideological and strategic school from which he originates forbids him from pursuing the policy of the Sarkozy-Juppé tandem, that of subservience within the New World Order. Holland sees Russia and China as necessary partners, not as adversaries. Although he held the same discourse as Juppé-Sarkozy on the promotion of human rights and democracy in the world, particularly in the French zone of influence, he considers that untimely military interventions far from improving matters often make them worse. In this sense, he draws the lessons from the U.S. adventures after September 11.
Holland believes that it is not possible to establish democracies in the Arab world as long as the Saudi and Qatari regimes exercise an influence over it. He stated that priority should be given to reforming the political structure of the Gulf monarchies. Therefore, there is no doubt that French policy in this area will change. Despite the Socialist Party’s opportunistic links with certain Gulf donors, Francois Hollande would be in a position to lay the groundwork for new rules in international relations.
However, this shift will not be enough for France to regain its influence in the Arab world as the damage wreaked by the Sarkozy era is considerable. It is therefore essential that the new French president take dramatic initiatives in order to turn the page.