President Francois Hollande faces increasing pressure to give France’s National Assembly a say in his Syrian policy as the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on approving a military strike against the Middle Eastern country.
President Barack Obama phoned Hollande yesterday to explain his decision to seek congressional authorization to strike the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad after the alleged use of chemical weapons in that nation’s civil war, a spokeswoman for the French president’s office said yesterday.
Obama’s deferral to Congress followed a vote in Britain’s parliament to prevent the U.K. from participating in any immediate action against Syria. With legislators in the U.S. and Britain setting their government’s course on Syria and polls showing French voters are reluctant to back their country’s involvement in a Middle Eastern war, French lawmakers say they, too, should have a role in the deliberations.
“The French should be consulted through their representatives,” Bruno Le Maire, an opposition lawmaker and former agriculture minister, said yesterday on BFM television. “The risk today is that France becomes a puppet of decisions made in the U.S.”
About two-thirds of voters are against intervention in Syria, a BVA poll for Le Parisien newspaper showed. BVA interviewed 1,010 adults Aug. 29-30. The results have a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will hold a meeting today with the presidents of both the National Assembly and the Senate, as well as the chairman of the foreign affairs and defense committees and leaders of opposition political groups.
Hollande, who as France’s commander-in-chief isn’t legally required to consult parliament, had already asked lawmakers to debate taking action against Syria. The debate is scheduled for Sept. 4.
“Since the president of the U.S. has decided to consult Congress, the French president should do the same and organize a formal vote in parliament after the debate,” former Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said in a statement.
Following the U.K. vote, Hollande came out in support of delivering a targeted blow, saying that France remains ready to act against Syria.
“There are few countries that have the capacity to act,” Hollande said Aug. 30. “France is among them and is ready to do so.” Hollande’s office declined any further comment yesterday.