Barack O-bonbon: French sweet on president's reelection

It's hardly been a secret that the French government hoped President Obama would win a second term.

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
The front pages of special editions of French daily newspapers Le Figaro, Le Monde, and Liberation published in Paris on Wednesday, following the reelection of US President Barack Obama.

Although the French government didn't officially pick a side in the US presidential campaign, its preference was hardly a secret. “If I were an American citizen, I would vote for Obama with no hesitation,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France Inter radio two weeks ago.

So it's no surprise that President Obama's reelection victory has been met with vocal approval.

“The reelection of Barack Obama is excellent news,” Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday morning as he came out of the government’s weekly meeting at the presidential palace. “It’s excellent news first for the United States because President Obama has the abilities to face the challenges of the United States, which are jobs, growth, the reduction of the budgetary deficit, the problems of immigration, the problems of education.”

Mr. Fabius added, “And it is excellent news for France and for Europe: For France because we have excellent relations with the American administration and because on issues such as growth, climate, we plan on working with the United States, and also because we need their support on issues that are called Iran, that are called Syria, that are called the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Minutes before Fabius spoke, Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg walked by camera crews and reporters in the presidential palace’s courtyard, simply saying “Barack Obama” as he gave a thumbs up.

France’s President François Hollande congratulated President Barack Obama for his reelection Wednesday and said he was confident that the United States and France would increase their cooperation on global issues, according to a message from Mr. Hollande to Mr. Obama that was made public by the French presidential palace.

“France and the United States share common values,” the statement read. “I am convinced that we will reinforce our partnership even more during your new presidential term to help bring economic growth back into our countries, to fight against unemployment and to find solutions to crises threatening us, in particular in the Middle East.”

The government's support for the American president mirrors that of the French public. A Nov. 5 poll by CSA polling institute for BFMTV news channel found that 78 percent of French people said they supported Obama in the US presidential election, while 17 percent had no opinion and 5 percent supported Romney.

Hall Garner, a professor and chair of international comparative politics at The American University of Paris, says Obama benefits from a positive view among the French that he is, unlike Romney, committed to cooperating with foreign countries rather than making unilateral moves on the global stage.

Romney was seen as quite negative,” Gardner says. “He’s seen as anti-European Union. Obama is seen as more pro-European Union, more willing to work with international organizations.”

Still, Obama's support for Europe and France is not without limits. Olivier Zajec, a research fellow at the Institute of Strategy and Conflicts, says the relations between the US and France are generally good but Obama’s administration tends to look down on European countries.

“[The US] sees Europe as a partner but a partner that plays in a lower league, if you will,” Zajec says. “A partner that doesn’t have its political personality, its own interests, and a will in terms of international relations. In a way, in the view of the US, Europe is fine that way and if it could continue to behave as a relatively obeying aide it would be interesting.”

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