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Would Hollande be better for Turkey? 27 avril 2012

Posted by Acturca in France, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey) 27 April 2012, p. 7

Semih Idiz

There is speculation as to whether a victory by François Hollande in the French Presidential elections would be good for Turkey, or whether it would represent much of the same, given the negative pattern established under President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This remains a wide-open question that has no clear answer at this stage. It must be recalled that Hollande has also pandered to populist demands to a certain extent in the recent past, which may of course simply prove to be no more than an electioneering tactic in the end.

The glaring fact about France at the moment, however, and one that has become clearer after the first round of the presidential elections is the rapid rise of the far right led by Marine Le Pen, who feels no compulsion whatsoever to hide her reprehensible breed of racism.

Also glaring is the fact that this racism does not appear to be a major issue for a sizable chunk of French society, which has generally veered to various shades of the right over the past decade anyway.

Le Pen made a major leap forward with the 18 percent of the vote that she garnered during the first round of the voting recently, which is something that can clearly not be overlooked either by the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, or the hopeful, Hollande.

The rise of the far right in any country is always symptomatic of a society that is in the throes of deep social problems. Fascism is a malaise that enters the body of societies and spreads like a cancerous disease, wreaking havoc before finally turning upon itself. The bottom line is that it represents crude instincts and has little to do with reason.

It is Europeans with their blood-drenched modern history that should know this best, but looking at the rise of the far right across the old continent it seems lessons of the recent past are rarely learned.

Seeing the French inclining in this direction is therefore a clear indication of a society that is not well, and this is the society that Hollande will have to deal with should he win the elections.

The big question here is whether he will, true to his social democratic credentials, rise to the occasion and steer his country away from this dangerous course, or whether he will also choose to pander to populist demands and retain this course. At any rate it is clear he has his plate full, given the millions of Frenchmen and women of African and North African origin, who are clearly not going to disappear in order to please the French right wing.

Should he choose the latter course it is obvious that he will maintain the line established by Sarkozy vis-a-vis Turkey. In other words he will not only see Turkey as a threat to his country through its bid for EU membership, but he will also see it as a growing rival in a part of the world that the French like to consider as their backyard, namely the Eastern Mediterranean.

Of course, harping on about Turkey’s EU bid at this moment in European history will be no more than surrendering to populism, seeing as the issue of this membership is hardly on the radar at time when Europe is in deep crisis and searching for a viable future for itself.

Entering into a competition with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean for political and economic influence, however, is another matter, since developments in the region are very much on the radar today. One would assume that given Turkey’s rising political and economic profile in the region, the logical course for Hollande to follow would be to go into cooperative, rather than confrontational mode.

One has to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he does indeed choose the rational course, rather than the instinctive one. But given the malaise that is spreading fast in French society, it is probably wiser not to bet on this just yet.

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