...Continued from page 1

In other words, if the Constitution consists of apples, they are saying it lacks oranges. Or they are saying that because it is so economically 'liberal,' we will all have to go to Poland to work for the wages there. Or just as bad, Poles will invade France and work for Polish wages here. Some very smart people will insist that the Constitution guarantees this.

The Constitution offers the very protections that the opposition says it lacks. Behavior that can't be governed by a Constitution is a used as an example for why the Constitution is bad. You are not going to get to bed this week if you want to argue about it. The arguments against the Constitution are complicated while its Articles are simple.

The official campaign to educate the voters has been a colossal flop. The opposition has used this fact for its advantage. They can say anything and this is what they have been doing.

For example, they say the 'liberal' aspects of the Constitution will cause massive unemployment. It is hard to understand how it could be made worse that it already is, under the 'old' rules. Voting against the Constitution is like voting for continued unemployment, rather than for the future.

The French government's 'reform' plans, delocalizations, unemployment, low wages, globalization, are all problems of right now, of the present right-wing 'liberal' government. Many votersphoto, polling station have been conned into believing that their present problems will worsen if the Constitution is ratified.

Voters tend to recall the past somewhat more easily than the future so even if the Constitution is about Europe, they are probably going to vote against the government.

Well, life is a gamble. The French can vote to maintain their miserable present and what they know, or they can cast a ballot for the unknown future.

Polling station in Paris.

As far as Europe is concerned, it has always been a risky business. This European Union thing stumbles along from crises to crises, from boiling pot to frying pan, but it has always managed to step back from brinks in the nick of time. Against all odds, formidable odds, impossible odds, the European Union exists. It has an urge to be.

Nicolas Sarkozy Suffers

Saturday – As a rule the press in France doesn't waste a lot of newsprint on the private affairs of politicians unless they intrude into the public sphere, usually in the form of messing with money in a careless way. While the habitués of social and political Parisian salons routinely trade rumor, innuendo, true lies and scandal, they don't share it with the hoi polli.

This is not to say that there are no 'people' magazines. These exist but are mainly at the service of the entertainment business, serving up PR tidbits for folks waiting to get their teeth pulled or their prescriptions renewed.

Until recently France's hottest Monsieur Go–Go, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife, Cécilia, were a frequent item on the 'people' circuit. He, Nicolas, had moved up from being mayor of the swank Paris suburb of Neuilly to being minister of the interior – the country's head cop – then moved over to the finance hot seat at Bercy, and from there he switched to being the president of the major right–wing party, the UMP.

All of this is part of a plan that will see Nicolas elected as president of France in 2007, and wife Cécilia was marching along hand–in–hand, perfectly matching her husband's short strides. Cécilia kept Nicolas' appointment book up to date as well as keeping the appointments with him.

The President of France, Jacques Chirac, decided to do a good thing for the French by getting them vote 'oui' for the new European Constitution. Quite naturally, to aid this mission, he called on the services of Nicolas - as head of the UMP party, Jacques' party in fact – to campaign for a 'oui' vote, which he has been doing.

Some doubt Nicolas' sincerity, some doubt that Nicolas is focused on anything other than the office of president, and some think he has tunnel vision, but he was out there campaigning like a real trooper. Until last Sunday that is, when he failed to turn up on the evening news program at the commercial station, TF–1. That set those salons buzzing!

Nicolas skipped a chance to be on the news? Every shot at the news is a step on the way to the Elysée Palace. A spokesman said the UMP president was tired. Tired? Monsieur 24/24, 7/7, Nicolas Sarkozy is tired? Incomprehension.

Then on Thursday evening the number one presidential pretender turned up in the news studio of France–3. Expecting him to launch into a plea for a 'oui' vote on Sunday, viewers were probably somewhat baffled when Sarkozy opened with, "Go on – do your nice job."

With an air of resignation he continued, mentioning "the craziest rumors." He added that there are, "Family difficulties," but, "There is no affair."

While the audience was wondering what this might be about, Sarkozy continued, hinting at a world of unscrupulous blows, demanding respect for himself and his family, saying he would protect them.

After using the word 'respect' several times he returned to his preoccupation, his determination, "Nothing will divert me from my chosen route," probably meaning his intention to become president of France. "I stay serene and I stay calm. I believe in my ideas."

With this, Sarkozy shrugged off his air of depression and launched into a typically passionate but routine pitch for a 'oui' vote for the European Constitution.

If nothing else Nicolas Sarkozy is popular with a solid majority of UMP party members, who are ready to vote 'oui' at the polls on Sunday. All the same he probably expects all thephoto, non oui posters possibilities, including a small to big victory for the 'non.' Since he himself has campaigned with energy, any defeat will be solely the responsibility of Jacques Chirac. The theory is, a 'non' will prevent Chirac from running for president again.

Either way, Sarkozy will have 22 months to convince the UMP and the French that he should become president in 2007. But should the 'oui' win he will still be ahead, well able to overcome the suspicion that his 'liberal' European stance wasn't meant to sink the referendum.

Jacques Chirac has been cooked before. He has risen from the ashes and he is still around, and regardless of how the vote goes on Sunday, he will still be president on Monday. Speculation has it that Jean–Pierre Raffarin will resign as prime minister, to be replaced by Dominique de Villepin.

This tall man may not be so loved as little Nicolas, but the French are having no trouble escaping the notion that he may be equally ambitious. After having a 90 minute chat with Chirac on Friday evening he may be well prepared to hit the ground running on Monday.

Finally there's Cécilia, or more to the point, where is Cécilia? If she's not Nicolas Sarkozy's right–hand man, what's she up to? According to the Swiss daily, Le Matin, this is 'one of the best–kept secrets of the République,' one that Nicolas Sarkozy isn't sharing with us.

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