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French presidential elections

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  • AMMAN, Jordan, May 8 (UPI) -- Arab media's interest in French politics continued Tuesday. Lebanon's independent as-Safir, in a front-page commentary, discussed France's election of Nicolas Sarkozy as the next president and its effect on French-Arab relations. It said that Sarkozy's victory does not constitute a coup, but it returns France to its original nature in terms of its foreign policy. The mass-circulation remarked it expected "France's Arab policy of Jacques Chirac" to leave the Elysee Palace because it had effectively ended while Chirac was still at the helm. It said the Arabs saw a clear distinction between Chirac's influential friendships with world leaders, including Arabs, and French foreign policy. "Some Arabs might feel a kind of loss with the exit of Chirac from the Elysee, but French policy did not change now with the voting; it changed quite a while before that," the paper, with Arab nationalist trends, said. "The election came to confirm that France has entered a new phase that will make it more American and less influential on international decisions. It will also make it closer to Israel and further away from the Arabs," it predicted. As for the Arabs, the daily remarked, nothing will change because they have humiliated themselves and lost their influence along with their causes - "so how can they demand or expect others to respect them more than they show respect for themselves?"

    Syria's al-Thawra said the country is closely watching France's foreign policy towards the Arab region and especially Syrian-French relations after a cold period in recent years, particularly following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The state-run daily added in a commentary it hoped the Syrian-French tension "created by Chirac" would be removed. It hoped that France's next policy would be "less concerned with the standards set by the outgoing administration and to focus on higher interests, not personal matters." The paper argued that the relations between the two countries need to be "cleansed, especially that Sarkozy wants France to continue leading a distinguished political role in the Mediterranean. That needs specifying this political identity during his rule in a way that is in harmony with the aspired role, and it all depends on Sarkozy's upcoming policies."

    Algeria's al-Khabar remarked that Algeria should be happy with Sarkozy's victory against Socialist Ségolène Royal, saying if the latter had won, the two countries would have entered into a honeymoon turned sour. "Sarkozy in the Elysee means there is no friendship between Algeria and France, and this means, politically, that Algeria is a state and France is another country," the daily said in a commentary. If Royal had become next president, it opined, Algeria would have become a French province as before the country's 1962 independence from French colonialism "in the name of warm relations." The paper, which describes itself as independent, said Germany occupied France for five years, yet it took more than 50 years for the two countries to start talking about friendship between them. "France occupied us for 130 years, occupied us culturally and politically for another 40 years" in the name of a friendship agreement, "and killed 5 million of us ... We should have waited at least 300 years without friendship with France, and after that we could talk about it," it insisted. The paper quoted the late nationalist Algerian President Houari Boumediene as saying, "If France is satisfied with Algeria, it means Algeria is not well," and it added, "What if France was over-satisfied with Algeria to the point of signing a friendship agreement?!"

    The London-based ash-Sharq al-Awsat said many Arabs were shocked with Sarkozy's presidential victory just as they were shocked with the re-election of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush. The Saudi-owned daily stressed that Sarkozy has been chosen as France's next president and he will work towards the interests of his country, not the interests of the Arabs, the Americans or any other. "Here, we will not find difficulty in adapting to this trend," it argued, "France, regardless of its president, geographically sits in front of the Arab world, we deal with it economically and demographically it co-exists with the Arabs. Geopolitically, it is considered a European frontline before the Arab problems in terms of illegal immigrants and terrorists." The paper, distributed in many Arab capitals, insisted that Sarkozy's portrayal in the Arab world as a racist who hates Arabs is an exaggeration in the reading of his statements. And even if he is as such, it said, the man will behave according to interests, not personal positions. "Instead of living our lives waiting for the election of others in the hope of a president faithful (to our causes), we should look for domestic solutions to our own problems," it said.

    Jordan's al-Ghad published a cartoon indicating that the election of Sarkozy as France's next president means Bush has a new and more reliable ally to replace Britain's Tony Blair. The cartoon in the independent daily shows Bush embracing a smiling Sarkozy and kissing him on the cheek, saying: "Congratulations, Sarkozy." At the same time, Bush is giving a back-kick to the behind of a shocked-looking Blair.


    • Paris, 8 May (AKI) - The head of France's Muslim Council Dalil Boubakeur is "satisified" by the victory on Sunday of conservative president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy, who Muslims should "put their faith in," he told Adnkronos International (AKI). "Like most people in France, we are happy to have a new president who is committed to maintaining public order and security and to improving the French economy," he said. The council was set up in 2002 as an official point of contact for France's five million Muslims. Sarkozy was interior minister at that time and counts the French Muslim council's creation as one of his achievements.

      Algerian-born Boubakeur, who is also rector of the main mosque in Paris added: "Muslims are also happy to have a president who will work to ensure employment opportunities for young people, eliminate discrimination and put an end to disorder and delinquency in poor areas."

      "According to the information in our possession, Muslims voted in more or less equal numbers for both candidates - Sarkozy and [Socialist contender Ségolène] Royal in Sunday's run-off.

      Sarkozy "knows the Muslim community and its spokespeople very well and is in excellent relations with them," Boubakeur stated. Sarkozy's proposed "affirmative action" towards Muslims and changes to French law allowing the state to finance the construction of mosques, show he is not racist, Boubakeur argued. "Sarkozy acts in favour of Muslims," he said.

      The problems that Muslims experience in France have little to do with religion and are more connected the economic and social conditions of France's poor high-rise suburbs, according to Boubakeur. Measures are needed to tackle these issues - which do not only affect Muslim citizens - rather than policies aimed at Muslims, he said.

      Boukbakeur however urged Sarkozy to "honour his commitments, especially to increase job opportunities for young people." Increasing access to the jobs market is one of the main problems facing France, where youth unemployment is running at 25 percent or higher in some areas.

      To help Sarkozy in his promised push to integrate immigrants in France, Muslims must avoid shutting themselves off from the rest of French society within their own religious communities, Boubakeur concluded.


      • Mardi 8 mai 2007 -- En effet, le candidat de l’UMP n’a récolté que 19,5 % des voix contre 80,5 % pour sa rivale socialiste Ségolène Royale, selon les chiffres officiels rendus publics hier par le ministère français des Affaires étrangères. Sur les 23 255 Français inscrits en Algérie, 4 739 ont pris part au vote, soit 20,4 % pour 4 691 bulletins exprimés.

        3 775 «Français d’Algérie» ont opté pour Mme Royale contre seulement 916 pour M. Sarkozy. Seuls les chiffres obtenus au niveau de l’Islande (13 %) et du Népal (18,5 %) sont pire que ceux récoltés par Sarkozy en Algérie. Par contre, Nicolas Sarkozy a obtenu son meilleur score en Israël, 90,7 %.

        Pour sa part Ségolène Royale a réalisé son score le plus élevé en Islande avec 87 % des voix en sa faveur. A l’échelle maghrébine, Sarkozy a réalisé son meilleur score au Maroc, où le taux de participation a atteint 59,5 % (12 888 électeurs) en obtenant 51,9 % contre 48,1 % pour Royale.

        En Tunisie, le candidat de l’UMP a obtenu 29,5 % contre 70,5 % pour la candidate du PS. Globalement, sur les 821 919 Français inscrits ?* l’étranger, 346 310 ont pris part au vote, soit un taux de participation de 42,1 %. Sarkozy a obtenu 183 613 voix (54 %) et Mme Royale 156 480 voix (46 %).

        Pour rappel, M. Sarkozy a été élu par 53,06 % des voix contre 46,94 % ?* sa rivale. Il pourra se prévaloir de ce score sans appel, doublé d’une très forte participation (84 %), pour mener les réformes radicales qu’il a annoncées aux Français.

        Inquiétude en Afrique Mais comme le montrent les réactions en Afrique et dans certaines capitales arabes, le nouveau président français a du pain sur la planche pour rassurer sur ses intentions sur des dossiers sensibles comme l’adhésion de la Turquie ?* l’UE, le conflit arabo-israélien ou l’immigration clandestine, principalement africaine.

        A titre d’exemple, ?* Bamako, le président de l’Association des expulsés du Mali (AEM), Ousmane Diarra, joint par l’AFP ?* Bamako, a déclaré que «lorsqu’on a [su] que Sarkozy a été élu, on a eu peur, très peur. C’est un gars qui a des lois très sévères sur l’immigration au détriment des Maliens et des Ouest-Africains candidats au départ», a ajouté ce responsable, ?* l’origine d’une campagne contre la venue de M. Sarkozy en mai 2006 au Mali.

        «L’élection de Sarkozy n’a pas suscité un grand enthousiasme en Afrique», a pour sa part relevé Alioune Tine, le secrétaire exécutif de la Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme (RADDHO), une ONG basée ?* Dakar. «Il a tenté de séduire l’électorat lepéniste avec les thèmes de l’extrême droite.

        Il a heurté de front la sensibilité des Africains, ?* l’intérieur comme ?* l’extérieur», a-t-il souligné. Les «masses populaires africaines considèrent [Sarkozy] comme le ténor d’une France [...] retranchée derrière ses barricades, opposant sans cesse un refus crispé au continent noir», écrit de son côté le quotidien progouvernemental sénégalais le Soleil.

        A Kinshasa, le Potentiel (indépendant) renchérit : M. Sarkozy «ne voit en l’Afrique que l’immigration qui fait mal ?* la France» et «ignore tout ce que l’Afrique apporte ?* France et ?* la francophonie». Grands espoirs en Israël Les médias israéliens s’attendaient pour leur part ?* «une ère nouvelle dans les relations franco-israéliennes», comme l’annonce un titre du quotidien populaire Yédiot Aharonot.

        «Les origines juives du prochain président catholique français ont suscité de grands espoirs ?* Jérusalem», relevait le journal qui ajoute qu’«il est ?* présent tenu de faire face au défi du nucléaire iranien». «La politique de Sarkozy se veut avant tout en rupture avec le passé», analyse pour l’AFP le politologue libanais Joseph Bahout, enseignant ?* l’IEP (Institut d’études politiques) de Paris.

        «Mais sa tâche sera d’autant plus rude qu’il succède ?* un homme, Jacques Chirac, dont le geste diplomatique envers le monde arabe était surtout empreint de considérations affectives et personnelles, et parfois d’un certain paternalisme bienveillant pour ses dirigeants», souligne ce spécialiste du Proche-Orient.

        Pour l’heure, la victoire de Nicolas Sarkozy a suscité une grande satisfaction en Israël et au sein des organisations juives dans le monde, tranchant avec les commentaires plutôt sobres dans le monde arabe et en Iran, ?* l’exception du Hezbollah libanais qui s’est aussitôt mis en position d’ouvrir un dialogue avec la France.

        Le parti chiite – qualifié de «terroriste» par Nicolas Sarkozy en septembre alors qu’il était ministre de l’Intérieur – a rapidement félicité M. Sarkozy, l’invitant toutefois ?* mener une politique «plus équilibrée» au Liban et dans la région.

        La banlieue parisienne accuse le coup En France, les banlieues déshéritées de la région parisienne accusaient le coup hier après l’élection de Nicolas Sarkozy, l’ex-ministre de l’Intérieur partisan d’une immigration «maîtrisée» et du retour ?* l’ordre, saluée par des échauffourées et des centaines de voitures brûlées.

        «C’est le choc. Un choc attendu, mais les gens ne voulaient pas y croire. Il n’y a jamais eu autant de mobilisation (pour participer au vote, ndlr) dans les banlieues. Les gens sont déçus», selon Mohammed Chirani, du collectif «Votez banlieues !».

        La direction de la police nationale a jugé que la présidentielle n’avait «pas amené de grands mouvements de violences urbaines dans les quartiers sensibles», mais a cependant recensé hier matin 737 voitures incendiées (contre 70 ?* 100 par nuit en temps normal) et 592 interpellations au cours des incidents qui ont émaillé la nuit.

        Les banlieues défavorisées, où se mêlent habitants originaires du Maghreb et d’Afrique noire et Français «de souche» de condition modeste, ont voté en masse pour la socialiste Ségolène Royal. Il ne s’agissait pas tant de voter «pour Ségolène Royal, mais contre Sarkozy, qui a fait du problème des banlieues son fond de commerce électoral», a souligné M. Chirani, issu d’une famille immigrée de la Grande Borne, une gigantesque cité au sud de Paris.


        • Nicolas Sarkozy: Scourge of the Banlieues?

          John Rosenthal | 11 May 2007
          World Politics Watch Exclusive

          PARIS -- "If I could get my hands on Sarkozy, I'd kill him." Thus begins author David Rieff's article in the New York Times Magazine last month on Nicolas Sarkozy's relation to the French "banlieues." Needless to say, it is not David Rieff himself, a fellow of the World Policy Institute in New York, who is proffering the threat. Rather he is quoting one "Mamadou", a young resident of the Les Bousquets housing project outside Paris. Evidently having succeeded in making an impression on the American visitor, Mamadou continued, "Then I'd go to prison. And when I got out, I'd be a hero." In fact, Mamadou might even be able to go to prison and be a hero right now, since under the French Penal Code, the making of death threats is itself a crime. Rieff goes on to ask a second young man, named "Ahmad", if he too "felt the same way." "I wouldn't kill him, no," Ahmad is supposed to have responded, "But I hate him. We all hate him."


          In "proletarian" Marseille, with its large population of North African origin and a per capita income almost half that of the capital Paris, Sarkozy trounced Royal by 56 percent to 44 percent.


          Belying the negative media hype - and to the obvious chagrin of his Socialist opponent - over the course of the electoral campaign, Sarkozy would garner the endorsement of some of the most well-known representatives of the popular culture of the "banlieues." The first to heed the call was none other than the native son of Clichy-sous-Bois Bruno Beausir, a star of French reggae and rap who performs under the colorful name "Doc Gyneco." Asked by the talk show host Marc Olivier Fogiel how he could have taken such a turn "to the Right," Beausir - seemingly quite stoned, but lucid enough to note the condescension implicit in Fogiel's question - shot back: "No, I'm from a poor neighborhood, but that doesn't mean I'm on the Left. I've never been on the Left." And indeed anyone familiar with Beausir's output could have already suspected that he is not "on the Left," even before he pronounced himself a fan of Nicolas Sarkozy and joined the UMP. Thus in 2005, he came out with a reggae ballad with the ironic title "Give Me a SMIC!" [Donne-Moi un SMIC]. The "Minimum Inter-professional Growth Salary" - or "SMIC" for short - is the ponderous administrative designation for France's guaranteed minimum wage. Poking fun at what American conservatives would call the "culture of dependence" created by French social programs, the video for "Donne-moi un SMIC" depicts an out-of-work Bruno paying a visit to the offices of the "Guaranteed Wage Cooperative," where he promptly falls asleep on an official's desk. (The video can be viewed here.)

          Sed et tortor vitae turpis blandit fermentum. Integer lacus turpis, sem. Aliquam erat volutpat. Suspendisse a nibh ut dolor facilisis molestie. Sed et pede. Sed vitae leo. Phasellus varius ultricies eros. Sed tempor, metus id adipiscing porttitor, diam turpis tempor eros. Nam id libero ut nisl posuere ultricies. Phasellus sed nibh eget lorem consectetuer tempus. Volutpat.


          • [...]

            In his Times article, Rieff quotes Lhaj Breze of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France saying of Sarkozy, "I'm afraid you won't find a single young French Muslim who will vote for him." Not a single one? Well, perhaps not among the fundamentalist followers of Breze's UIOF, which is widely regarded as a satellite organization of the Muslim Brotherhood (and not only by "the Right," as Rieff suggests). But what about the 28-year-old Faudel [Belloua], otherwise known as the "Little Prince of Raï"? Along with Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha, Faudel is one of the three undisputed mega-stars of Franco-Algerian popular music. During the last weeks of the campaign, he could repeatedly be seen at Sarkozy's side. At the Sarkozy victory celebration at the Place de la Concorde Sunday night, Faudel would grab the microphone just after the singing of "the Marseillaise" in order to sing his own anthem to France "Mon Pays": "My Country". "Too many loves to forget that I was born here," runs the refrain, "Too many friends to forget that I was born here, that I was born here." (The video for "Mon Pays" can be viewed here.)

            Sarkozy also benefited from the spirited defense of his policies by his longtime advisor for immigration questions and campaign spokesperson Rachida Dati. The daughter of a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother, Dati grew up in modest circumstances in a small town in the Burgundy region, before passing through France's National School of Magistracy and becoming a court official. At the age of just 41, it is widely assumed that she will be named a minister in the new government to be appointed after Sarkozy is sworn in as President on May 16. There is some speculation that she might take over a new "Ministry of Immigration and National Identity" that Sarkozy proposed to create during the campaign. Despite the fact Sarkozy persistently made a point of emphasizing that French nationality has nothing to do with race or ethnicity (see, for instance, his campaign spot here), Rieff says that for "many French people" the idea represented a "horrifying echo of the racism of the fascist Vichy regime." If so, then "many French people" would presumably be relieved by Dati's appointment. But, in spite of her relative inexperience, her name has also come up in connection with more traditional and weightier posts like the Ministry of Justice.

            [read full article]
            John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic relations. His work has appeared in English, French and German in publications such as Policy Review, The Claremont Review of Books, The New York Sun, Les Temps Modernes, Le Figaro and Merkur.

            Sed et tortor vitae turpis blandit fermentum. Integer lacus turpis, sem. Aliquam erat volutpat. Suspendisse a nibh ut dolor facilisis molestie. Sed et pede. Sed vitae leo. Phasellus varius ultricies eros. Sed tempor, metus id adipiscing porttitor, diam turpis tempor eros. Nam id libero ut nisl posuere ultricies. Phasellus sed nibh eget lorem consectetuer tempus. Volutpat.


            • A look at past French presidents

              France's modern political system was established in 1958 by popular referendum. Amid a growing crisis in Algeria, World War II hero Gen. Charles de Gaulle returned to government demanding a new constitution, with new powers. He defused the crisis acting as prime minister, then after the referendum he was elected first president of the Fifth Republic.

              Nicolas Sarkozy's inauguration Wednesday marks the sixth passage of power under the Fifth Republic.

              Charles de Gaulle (conservative): 1959-1969

              Georges Pompidou (conservative): 1969-1974

              Valery Giscard d'Estaing (center-right): 1974-1981

              Francois Mitterand (Socialist): 1981-1995

              Jacques Chirac (conservative): 1995-2007

              Nicolas Sarkozy (conservative): 2007-

              PRESIDENTIAL TERM:
              Currently a five-year mandate.

              The postwar political system, the Fourth Republic, was plagued by power sharing and instability that made crisis decision-making and long-term policy very difficult. The Fifth Republic dealt with these problems by concentrating more power in the president's office.
              The president was initially elected by an electoral college similar to that of the United States, but in 1962 this was changed to a direct "one person, one vote" system.

              The president names a prime minister and sets policy. The prime minister and government are chosen based on the majority party in the National Assembly, or parliament. In the past, conservative presidents have had Socialist prime ministers, and vice versa.

              Sed et tortor vitae turpis blandit fermentum. Integer lacus turpis, sem. Aliquam erat volutpat. Suspendisse a nibh ut dolor facilisis molestie. Sed et pede. Sed vitae leo. Phasellus varius ultricies eros. Sed tempor, metus id adipiscing porttitor, diam turpis tempor eros. Nam id libero ut nisl posuere ultricies. Phasellus sed nibh eget lorem consectetuer tempus. Volutpat.


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