Arabs cheer Hollande victory

May 10, 2012

François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential elections has been cheered by Arabs as a positive prospect to improve relations.

However, while some countries hope to see in the new president an ally or an asset, Arab analysts and bloggers warned that his presidency would not make tangible changes in the French policy.

Others preferred to wait before making a judgement on the new leader, especially that he has rarely talked about the Middle East.

Tunisian political analyst Abdullah Obeidi said that he did not expect many changes in the French policy, insisting that it is defined by the country’s interests and that decisions are made based on views from experts and advisors and through the state institutions.

“The Right and Left in France are not at opposite ends as is the case in the Arab world,” he said. “They are in fact quite close and if we look at the candidates’ political programmes, we see that they agree on the French tenets and that they share views on the major issues,” he told Tunisian daily Assabah.

The differences and divergences are related to some positions and not to the core issues, he said.

“Hollande’s victory does not necessarily mean that France’s positions will change. Both Hollande and Sarkozy are just employees of the state carrying out specific tasks and cannot ignore its institutions. French business people who invest in the Maghreb countries, for instance, do not really care about France’s foreign policy. They are more interested in the investment climate and in the profits they can generate.”

For Mauritanians, news of Hollande’s victory was sweet, especially among families of emigrants.

“For years, Mauritanians were denied visas to go to France to see their families,” Mohammad Hassanain said.

Several Algerians living in France said that they expected Hollande to be more understanding of the plight of immigrants and to assist them on humanitarian grounds.
However, countrymen commenting in social networks said that there would be no changes.

“There is no hope that Hollande will change the legislation endorsed by the French senate,” they said. “Sarkozy is gone, but French interests and policies will remain.”
Jaber Mohammad, a Bahraini analyst, said that Iran’s controversial nuclear programme was highly significant on the Middle East agenda and that it would be interesting to see whether Hollande will keep the same hard position on the demands on Tehran to cease its activities.

“Iran is expected to remain intransigent on its programme and observe how France with a new leader and different ideologies reacts. It might seek to undermine the West’s positions by going for partial agreements. Hollande during the campaign focused on local issues, mainly the economy and immigration, so we are not sure how he will react,” he said.

Tehran on Monday said that it looked forward to a new era in its relations with Paris.

“We hope a new era will open up based on the existing potential between the two nations” and their “historic relations,” Ramin Mehmanparast, the foreign ministry spokesman, said. “We hope that the policies of Francois Hollande will correct past wrong approaches.”

Esmail Kosari, Iran’s Deputy Chairman of Majlis Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, focused on Sarkozy’s defeat.

“Sarkozy’s government lacked planning and the people showed their dissatisfaction with the government in the presidential election,” he said. “France is a major country with veto right at the United Nations Security Council, but Sarkozy led France as a follower of the US international policy.”

Writing for Israeli daily Haaretz, Sefy Hendler argued that even though last year saw a significant decline in the close relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sarkozy, the Israeli leader cannot be satisfied and “is losing a close ally in the international arena – an ally that demonstrably changed French foreign policy concerning Syria and Libya.”

“Netanyahu will find at Élysée a socialist with fundamental reservations concerning the Israeli right and West Bank settlement policy. It is already possible to predict that the tone of the French Foreign Ministry denunciation messages will become more severe, at least concerning these issues,” he wrote.

“It remains to be seen who Hollande will name has his foreign minister, but it is likely that the Israeli-French honeymoon enjoyed by Sarkozy and Netanyahu is over.”

In Damascus, Al Watan daily lashed out at Sarkozy and his foreign minister Alain Juppe, saying that they worked for 15 months to find a way, through the UN Security Council, to destroy Syria using false pretexts.”

“The Sarkozy-Juppe duo in the dustbin of history,” the front page headline of the pro-government daily read.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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