Farcical French move on Armenian votes over Turks

Farcical French move on Armenian votes over Turks

Generally speaking the Turkish media was in a joyous mood yesterday, following a motion by a group of French legislators to annul the French Senate’s approval of a law criminalizing denial that the Armenian killings of 1915 in the last years of the Ottoman Empire was a genocide.

77 members of the French Senate and 65 members of the Parliament signed letters to the Constitutional Council claiming that the law, supported by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was against the French Constitution, as such a law would violate freedom of expression.

One headline went as far as to say the motion represented “142 slaps on Sarkozy’s face.” Others had even lower tones, as if the motion constituted a victory for Turkish thesis on the Armenian problem; which currently stands at a shy acknowledgement of “mutual massacres.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was chic enough to say he was happy to see that there were those in Paris to correct the mistakes, and that one should wait for the court decision in the meantime.

President Sarkozy’s statement was a piece of political art as well; framed as if he wasn’t expecting such a knife in his back, since many of the opposing legislators were actually from his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.

It was as if Sarkozy had not sent a message to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan right after the Senate approved the bill to say he had 15 days to approve it. This message effectively said: “I give you a chance to convince French politicians to try their chance to annul it and you have 15 days for that, but you have to stop your campaign to discredit me.” It was after that message that Turkish fury against the French President was toned down, with leaks to Turkish media that a chance should be given to diplomacy. 

Another statement, by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the French vote, was interesting too; effectively, Clinton asked everybody to leave the issue to historians, as if the Armenian question was not the annual Turkey-bashing festival in Washington DC.

One might argue that this is not hypocrisy, but realpolitik in a populist fashion.

Now the Constitutional Council will reportedly give a decision within 30 days, starting from Jan. 31, the day the appeal was lodged.

In the meantime France is approaching its Presidential elections. The first round will be held on April 22nd; two days before the 97th anniversary of the infamous Ottoman decree for the forced deportation of Armenian population from the Eastern provinces under Russian occupation during the World War I. The second round will be held on May 6th.

Polls show Sarkozy behind his main rival François Hollande of the Socialist Party; he desperately needs votes in packages, like those of the French-Armenians, whose roots are in Turkey.

If the bill is turned down, also allowing the possibility of annuling the recognition of 1915 killings as genocide, nothing will change for the Armenian community in France, other than the broken and manipulated hopes they invested in Sarkozy in the form of votes. That is why this business-as-usual looks farcical as well.