Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Bonne Entente: France-USA or France-Hezbollah?

(With Update)

Franco-American cooperation on UN Security Council Resolution 1559, that paved the way for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, is often cited – notably by “neo-conservative” commentators – as an example of Franco-American entente and a model for the great successes that are supposed to be in store if the French and America governments set aside their recent differences and work together. But are the French and American visions for a free Lebanon really so harmonious? The important French-language blog Politique arabe de la France – literally “The Arab Policy of France” and the authors advocate a radical reorientation of the latter – points to some chilling remarks [link in French] by a spokesperson of the French Foreign Ministry that give cause to pause. The remarks were prompted by questions from an unnamed journalist concerning last Sunday’s parliamentary elections in southern Lebanon that saw an electoral alliance including Hezbollah win all 23 seats. I translate directly from the Foreign Ministry website. The Foreign Ministry official is also unnamed.

Q. Do you have any reaction concerning the second stage of the parliamentary elections that took place in the South of Lebanon?

A. Yes. The parliamentary elections in the two districts in the South of Lebanon showed a high rate of participation and there were no significant incidents to speak of....

Q. You emphasized that the rate of participation was high?

A. Yes. In effect, that is what the parliamentary elections in these two districts showed.

Q. It was 43%. One cannot say that's high.

A. That’s one point of view. We have noted two points: the participation rate and the absence of significant incidents.


Ben from Politique arabe de la France comments:
It is not hard to understand the astonishment of the journalist, who comes back to the question several times: how can one speak of a high rate of participation when 57% of the electorate stayed home? In principle, one cannot, but this does not seem to trouble the French Foreign Minister. Maybe this is a matter of not being attentive. Or maybe it is a matter of giving a little more legitimacy, even at the price of such a flagrant untruth, to those who came out victorious in the vote: namely, Hezbollah. And when the European election observers do not notice any irregularities in the conduct of the vote, while the Lebanese observers saw irregularities [on which, for instance, here], one wonders who to believe.