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AFRICAN MERCENARIES FOR AMERICAN WARS – PAGES 10-11
MAY 2012 No 1205
The first round of the presidential election encouraged François Hollande, the left’s candidate, and discouraged the incumbent president. And now for the crucial alliances
AHMED MODHIR – ‘Black On Red VIII’ (2009)
Piracy as good policy
BY SERGE HALIMI
The head of state, confident after electoral victory, tells the governor of the central bank what to do, introduces forex controls and announces that a key sector of the economy, sold off to private investors 13 years ago, is to be nationalised. Two members of the government are appointed to head this enterprise, now in public hands again, and its private owners are told to go. The European Commission, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are furious about this “shabby act of economic piracy”. The Economist suggests that the “pirate state” should be excluded from the G20, and that its citizens (who voted in the head of state) must get visas to travel abroad.
This is not Europe. It is Argentina. As President Cristina Kirchner explained on 16 April when most of the assets of the Spanish multinational Repsol, majority shareholder in the Argentinian oil company YPF, were about to be nationalised: “We are the only country in Latin America, and I would say in the world, that doesn’t control its natural resources.” Public ownership is not as prevalent as she suggests – Total, BP, ExxonMobil and others are private companies – but she is thinking of earlier battles to recover common sources of wealth: Mossadeq’s nationalisation of British Petroleum in Iran in 1951, Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal for Egypt in 1956, Boumedienne’s acquisition of Elf and Total assets for Algeria in 1971, Putin’s seizure of the Yukos company in Russia in 2003 and Hugo Chávez’s takeover of PDVSA (Petroleum of Venezuela).
Argentina’s government claims the former owners of YPF distributed 90% of its profits to shareholders. With no investment in the industry, national oil production has declined by 20% since 2004; energy imports have increased 20-fold. Argentina has learned by painful experience not to rely on foreign loans (and even less on the IMF) to balance its books.
Though well received at home, Kirchner’s daring move has brought extravagant demands for compensation, threats of a commercial boycott and warnings of storms ahead. But Buenos Aires is familiar with prophets of doom. In 2001, when Argentina stopped repaying its debt and devalued its currency, it was told to expect balance of payments crises and economic ruin. Since then, its foreign accounts have been in credit, production has increased by 90%, and unemployment and poverty have been dramatically reduced (1). Europe would do well not to side with the Spanish multinational’s shareholders but to follow Argentina’s bold political lead.
TRANSLATED BY BARBARA WILSON
(1) See Mark Weisbrot, “Argentina’s critics are wrong again about renationalising oil”, The Guardian, London, 18 April 2012.
Inside this issue Sarkozy’s family fails by alain garrigou Page 2 French left agrees to disagree by antoine schwartz Page 2 Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood divides by alaa al-din arafat Page 4 Libya’s rebel leader with a past by vicken cheterian Page 6 Television channels the Arab Spring by yves gonzalez-quijano Page 6
BY ALAIN GRESH
What did the first round of voting on 22 April tell us about the French presidential election? The turnout was very high, around 80%, contrary to what many commentators and pundits had expected. This confirmed the central place of the presidential election (“the queen of the elections”), which decides France’s main orientation over the next five years.
François Hollande with 28.63% of the votes came in ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy at 27.18%, the first time since the beginning of the Vth Republic in 1958 that a president trying to win a second term has failed to beat his challenger. This is a clear sign of the French electorate’s rejection of Sarkozy and a repudiation of his government’s policies – especially economic and social, with their resultant high unemployment. Sarkozy was “le président des riches” (president of the wealthy), but there was also a resounding “non” to his personal behaviour since, for many French people, Sarkozy has discredited the presidential role. In one particularly symbolic incident, he insulted a demonstrator in front of television cameras.
Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right Front National party, took 18% of the votes, not that different from the percentage her father won in the 2002 presidential election (more than 16.8%; another far-right candidate won 2.3%), and far more than her father’s 10.44% in 2007. Why this difference? In 2007 Sarkozy ran a dynamic campaign, defended ideas important to the far right (security, immigrants) and took some of their votes. This time, despite a campaign that was very rightwing (especially against immigrants and Islam), he failed.
There is another important reason for the Front National’s results. Under Marine Le Pen, the party has begun to transform from a fascist, anti-Semitic, anti-state party, to a party that wants to be respectable, which rejects antiSemitism (but replaces it with Islamophobia),
Alain Gresh is vice president of Le Monde diplomatique, Paris. This is an updated version of an article which first appeared in Gulf News, Dubai
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which supports the state and its role, and is anti-European.
For Sarkozy, the situation is very difficult: Hollande can count on those who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon (from the far-left Front de Gauche, with more then 11%), and on the Greens and other small parties, with around 3.5%. It is the first time since 1981 that this leftwing trend has been so strong.
Who will the people who supported François Bayrou (a centrist candidate with more than 9%) vote for? And how will Marine Le Pen’s supporters vote?
The first polls showed that of Bayrou’s electorate, 34% will vote for Hollande, 40% for Sarkozy and the rest are undecided or will abstain. Bayrou has not taken sides as yet (in 2007 he refused to do so). The problem is the division among Bayrou’s support base. To gain Bayrou’s support, Sarkozy would have to make concessions and make his campaign more “centrist”, but would then risk losing the votes of the Le Pen supporters. He has embraced the Front National’s propaganda in his campaign for the second round: attacks on immigrants and Islam, attacks on the “elites” and the trade unions, attacks on Europe.
Marine Le Pen told her supporters at the Front National’s annual 1 May rally: “On Sunday, I will vote blank. I have made my choice. Each of you will make yours.” According to the polls, 50% of her supporters will vote for Sarkozy, 15% for Hollande and the rest will abstain. She is betting on Sarkozy’s defeat and wants to be seen as the “official opposition” to the future leftwing president. She is hoping Sarkozy’s Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle (UMP) will implode after the election – he has said that he will retire from politics if he loses; the UMP is likely to be divided, and weakened by personal ambitions (a fight has already begun between UMP general secretary Jean-Yves Coppé, prime minister François Fillon and foreign minister Alain Juppé). Le Pen also hopes that UMP members, and even members of parliament, will join her party. For her, the next general election, in June, will be decisive: even with 20% of the votes, she is not sure her party will get any candidates elected because of the particularities of French electoral law.
The polls show that on 6 May around half of Le Pen supporters will vote for Sarkozy, but not enough for him to win. His defeat will mark an important moment: for the first time since 1995, France will have a Socialist president, and in a situation of deep economic crisis.
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