Chirac readies to rally as'no' vote gains in France

12th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 12 (AFP) - Three new opinion polls released Tuesday indicated that French voters will reject the European constitution in a May 29 referendum, as President Jacques Chirac prepared to join the heated debate.

PARIS, April 12 (AFP) - Three new opinion polls released Tuesday indicated that French voters will reject the European constitution in a May 29 referendum, as President Jacques Chirac prepared to join the heated debate.

An Ipsos survey conducted for the daily Le Figaro and private radio Europe1 showed that the "no" camp was holding steady in France, with 53 percent of respondents against the landmark text.

Two other polls released later in the day - one carried out by CSA and the other by the BVA institute - put the "no" vote at 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Since mid-March, a string of opinion polls have all suggested that the "no" camp, with between 51 and 55 percent of likely voters, will win out.

The polls were surely not well received by Chirac and other French supporters of the constitution, which aims to streamline decision-making in the expanded 25-member European Union.

Chirac, who has been under pressure to campaign more actively for the constitution, will officially enter the fray late Thursday, when he answers questions posed by 80 young adults aged 18-30 on live television.

His television appearance was pushed back a week so that he could attend Pope John Paul II's funeral in Rome last Friday.

On Monday, the French leader urged voters to support the constitution, saying at a state dinner for Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio that the treaty "opens the doors of the future for Europe".

Offering a toast to Sampaio, Chirac said: "You, like me, are convinced: this treaty opens the doors of the future for Europe. That's why we're doing everything possible to make sure this great debate ends in success."

Opposition to the European constitution gained momentum in France in the second half of March, propelled by anti-government feeling and unease about the country's future in the EU.

The treaty will not come into effect unless it is ratified in each EU state. A rejection in France, one of the bloc's largest countries, would effectively kill the treaty.

But according to the Ipsos poll published Tuesday, 63 percent of French voters believe that a "no" vote would not block the constitution, but instead lead to renegotiation of the text.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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