May 29, 2005

In Referendum, French Reject Constitution

PARIS – The French rejected the European Constitution by 55% to 45% in a referendum in which more than 70% of the electorate turned out to vote.

Unfortunately for supporters of the constitution, the referendum was not decided on its merits alone. According to Sofres, the largest French polling organization, voters said no for the following reasons:

  • 46% -- feared that unemployment would worsen under the constitution
  • 40% -- were fed up with the current situation in France
  • 35% -- believed a no would permit the constitution to be renegotiated
  • 34% -- found the constitution too economically liberal and difficult to understand
  • 19% -- thought the constitution threatened the identity of France
  • 18% -- wanted to prevent the entry of Turkey to the EU
  • 12% -- followed certain politcal leaders who asked them to vote no

Both major parties, the UMP and the Socialists, had asked their members to support the constitution. In the event, a majority of Socialists defied the leadership and voted no. (Thus Laurent Fabius is, at least for now, a big political winner). President Chirac also badly mishandled the campaign for the Oui.

France is the first country to reject the constitution: nine other countries have already ratified it. The Netherlands will vote on June 1, and are expected to similarly vote no to express disfavor with their current government. If that happens, the constitution is probably doomed in its current form.

In any case France will wake up tomorrow morning with a post-election hangover: the future of a more united Europe is now completely uncertain. The “what do we do now” debate is likely to last for years to come.

By Will Friedman in Foreign Affairs | Permalink  | 


Out of curiosity, what do the French have against Turkish entry into the EU?

Posted by: dks | May 31, 2005 11:33:13 AM

If there's one thing that almost all French people can agree on, it's that Turkey should not be admitted to the EU. The various reasons people give include:

Most of Turkey is geographically part of Asia, not Europe.
Turkey’s population is so large they will control the EU. (This point is perhaps the most doubtful, as Turkey’s population is around 70 million compared to France and the UK at around 60 million, or Germany at over 80 million. However, some people believe Turkey’s population is larger than it is.)
Turkey doesn’t uphold European values (e.g., they support the death penalty).
Turkey doesn’t protect its borders well enough.
Europe is Christian and Turkey is Muslim.

This last point is not always said out loud, but it is perhaps the most significant. (I wonder if a US State that was majority Muslim would be admitted to the Union).

The now defunct European Constitution had certain provisions that would have required new member states to subscribe to commonly held values, such as more equality between men and women in the workplace, a rejection of the death penalty, and a declaration of human rights.

But with the Dutch nee vote yesterday, the Constitution is dead, dead!

Posted by: Will | Jun 2, 2005 10:35:37 AM

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