Merci, Jacques

From Le Monde (reg) today:

Quant à l'évolution interne de l'Egypte, la France n'endosse pas, ici comme ailleurs dans le monde arabe, le discours plus offensif des Etats-Unis sur le thème de la démocratisation, mais préfère mettre l'accent sur le fait que des "réformes doivent être conduites par chacun à son rythme". M. Chirac, a indiqué son porte-parole, compte "affirmer le soutien de la France à l'action de modernisation politique et économique engagée par l'Egypte".

As for internal developments in Egypt, France does not endorse, here as elsewhere in the Arab world, the more aggressive discourse of the United States on the topic of democratization, but instead prefers to stress the fact that "reforms must be conducted by each at his own rhythm." Mr. Chirac, his spokesman said, intends to "affirm France's support for the political and economic modernization undertaken by Egypt."
When I was a child growing up in Morocco in the 1980s, I followed French politics on local TV -- after all, there was no Moroccan politics to speak of apart from changes in King Hassan II's dazzling wardrobe. It was the days of cohabitation, the uneasy relationship between Francois Mitterrand as president and Chirac as Prime Minister. Mitterrand seemed to be like a sinister figure, whereas Chirac was much warmer and seemed like the underdog. His repeated failure to outdo Mitterrand at the polls and in political maneuvering made him extremely likable to me (of course I didn't know then about his incredible corruption.) But there he is now, a washed failure of a president, a relic of a bygone era (he first became a minister in the 1960s!) who escapes the problems he has at home for state visits to Arab dictators. I think that when he steps down he should be made Secretary General of the Arab League.

But hey, maybe Cairo will get a new metro line out of it.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.