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Panic At the Elysée

photo, non banner, marche daguerre

Hustling 'non' at the marché.

The Big NON

Paris:– Monday, 30. May 2005:– By now the result of France's vote for or against accepting the European Constitution has been broadcast around the world, allowing France to yet again astonish its enemies and confound its friends. However the surprise was felt within France too, and on the winning side there was thin joy as well.

Since the socialists and other assorted lefties helped re–elect Jacques Chirac as Présidentphoto, oui posters of France in the spring of 2002, voters have returned several times to the polls to vote against the right–wing majority and the president. With each slap in the face the country's political leader has said he's heard the 'message,' but kept up with the same old program.

The 'same old program' isn't Europe or its constitution. It's just a vote that came along and got in the way of a freight train of dissatisfaction. 'La France–d'en–bas' – the little folks – is fed up with having its 'messages' ignored, so it has just gone out and pulled the fire alarm.

What a mess! There isn't a politician in France today that can take any satisfaction from this. When an earthquake happens everybody gets stuck in the wreckage. In this case it looks like the French have set a tidal wave in motion and it does not look like there are any well–equipped rescue workers around.

Paris Votes OUI

If you don't speed–listen to the weather forecasts on the radio you might swear that Paris has no weather at all, and a lot of weather happens in far–off Brittany and around Marseille. In the same vein all of France voted 'non' yesterday just about everywhere, and it is today's paper that finally tells me that Paris voted 'oui.'

With a turnout five points higher than the national average, Parisians voted 66.5 percent 'oui' and 33.5 percent 'non.' The two arrondissements with the poorest showing both had 53 percent in favor of the constitution. Four arrondissements had favorable votes close to 80 percent. Other than dissident socialists in the 'non' camp, Paris' mayor Bertrand Delanoë turned out to be the only socialist leader that delivered the 'oui' goods.

The Big NON

Sunday – After one of the hardest–fought campaigns anyone can remember in France, polling for acceptance or rejection of the European Constitution ended tonight at 20:00 throughout France and at 22:00 in Paris and Lyon. Voter turnout was high and the suspense stretched its tendons to the limit, to the end.

With the closing of the polls, thephoto, oui non posters 'winner' has turned out to be the partisans of the NON vote, rejecting the European Constitution which would have formed the basis of law for 450 million Europeans, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to Russia.

Initial estimates have posted the results as 55 percent for the 'non' and 45 percent for the 'oui.' This is decisive, coupled with a national turnout estimated to be near 70 percent of registered voters, both in France and in its overseas territories.

This is a bitter blow to all centrist leaders from right to left and is an electroshock for France's Président, Jacques Chirac, who called for the vote in the first place. Tonight's vote comes as yet another in a string of electoral rejections of his presidency.

Aside from Spain which has already voted to accept the Constitution, there are eight other countries that have planned referendums. Holland, which has had a problem getting anyone interested in the campaign which winds up at the ballot boxes on Wednesday, will not be reassured by tonight's result in France.

Meanwhile there is gloom in the various headquarters of the mainstream parties here, while victory fêtes by opponents were already under way before the polls closed, with the Communists singing the 'Internationale.' A reporter stationed at the 'non' headquarters of the dissident Socialists said they were ready to 'faire la fête toute la nuit.'

Jacques Chirac, speaking from the Elysée Palace 30 minutes after polls closed said, "It's your decision," and went on to say that France will continue to respect its obligations vis–a–vis Europe. But in conclusion he added that the French can expect a 'nouvelle impulsion' from the government within a few days.

Leader of the president's party, the UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy, on television immediately afterwards, gave what would have sounded like a campaign speech, for president of France, as if 2007 isn't far off. Nicolas should think twice before setting out to run for so long.

Urge To Be

Friday – There are problems with the European Constitution but they apply to all constitutions. In Europe's new one there are articles of a few simple words that should be easy to understand. For example, Article II-62.2 in the Fundamental Rights section says, "Nobody can be condemned to death or executed."

If ratified, this will apply to 450 million people living in the 25 member states of the European Union. I expect that clever legal minds will find ways to interpret the eight simple words above and convince a judge somewhere that the opposite is really meant, but until then I would vote for a constitution that bars the death penalty and hope for the best.

The most impassioned champions of the Constitution will freely admit that some of it is not perfect. Articlesphoto, villiers non poster that may seem a bit vague are backed up with 'Declarations' that spell out the meaning more exactly, and past European Court decisions are added if they aid clarity.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech in Article II-71.1. It says, "Everyone has the right to free expression, including the exchange of opinions, without interference by the authorities and without consideration of frontiers." This is a long one and the subject is complicated so we can expect that this will see its day in courts to come.

The debate around the Constitution has been somewhat obscure because very few people have read it. The opposition has used this ignorance shamelessly by citing dubious practices that are happening today, saying they will be totally uncontrolled in the future.

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