The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State1
2499. As anticipated, North African debate proved rough going for Government. Although halfway through it appeared that chamber was determined make Government sweat for its final approval and would hold down favorable majority to safe but narrow margin, there was at no time in either deputy or journalist corridor groups any serious expectation that Government would not emerge successfully at end.
Final vote speaks adequately for success of assembly in carrying out intentions. Analysis of vote gives evidence of “dosing” by floating vote, largely by means of switching from cons to abstentions and vice versa, as means achieving purpose.
Interpellations were numerous and represented all shades opinion among and within parties. Most notable that of Rene Mayer which was, unlike virtually all others, constructive and had strong influence on governments replies and position. (Mendes not only applauded portions of it during delivery but referred to it in his own statement.)
Government moved in its heavy artillery in combating critics. First Fouchet who gave a detailed account of the Franco-Tunisian conventions now under negotiation in support of his principal theme which may be summarized as, “the government is trying to build a solid edifice in North Africa which is demonstrated by the conventions now under negotiation. They will be submitted to the Parliament for discussion so will you not be patient?” Effectiveness of Fouchet’s presentation reduced by MRP heckling which consisted in part of embarrassing quotations from Fouchet’s own former denunciations in the assembly of the Neo Destour and terrorists.
Mitterand followed confining himself to Algeria and basing his argument on fact that Algeria is not associated territory but part of France itself—“France is second Moslem country of world after Pakistan having 7 million Moslems among her citizens”. Mitterand gave his account of reasons for disorders—foreign propaganda and agents and “certain” nationalist movements. He emphasized need for repressive measures in order to preserve unity of “patrie” of which Algeria is a part. Mitterand’s intervention was logical, precise and delivered in his usual self-assured, authoritative style. We had impression that it was a bit too slick for present tempers of chamber who still have a hangover from the Dides case debate and its anti-Mitterand aspects. We were impressed by extent anti-Mitterand feeling during interpellations preceding and during Mitterand’s own speech. There is no doubt that Mitterand has become a highly controversial [Page 187] figure in chamber. At end of speech he was applauded only by socialists, UDSR, some radicals and few Gaullists with others audibly silent in their disapproval.
Mendes own speech was only fair success. Main theme was, as expected, that government was keeping her promises for “autonomy but not independence” and must not be prevented from carrying out the job. His account of government’s position was well organized and delivered in customary board room manner. Mendes’s airs of self-assurance which assembly used to find agreeable following upon Laniel’s “false modesty” now appear to irritate them. What they considered his exaggerated vaunting of success of Fellagah amnesty program was, for instance, greeted with cries of “allons, allons” (are you kidding?). He pleased right by citing repressive measures for terrorism and non-Communist left by promising carry out program for autonomy which “ten previous governments had promised but not lived up to”. At end applause was good but limited by Mendesian standards.
Final vote evidence that Mendes margin of safety is being whittled away but that if a serious attempt is to be made to unseat him it is not on North Africa and not at this time. We think debate should have little effect one way or another on forthcoming Paris agreements ratification debate. Result should, however, serve notice on Government that honeymoon with assembly is now really over.
- This telegram was repeated to Bonn and London.↩