French 'non' vote hits record high in poll

22nd April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 21 (AFP) - Hopes that the campaign in favour of the EU constitution was finally making a comeback in France were swiftly quashed Thursday with a new poll showing the "no" vote for the May 29 referendum at 58 percent, its highest score yet.

PARIS, April 21 (AFP) - Hopes that the campaign in favour of the EU constitution was finally making a comeback in France were swiftly quashed Thursday with a new poll showing the "no" vote for the May 29 referendum at 58 percent, its highest score yet.

Supporters of the constitution were briefly encouraged by a survey published Thursday in Le Parisien newspaper which for the first time in a month indicated that opposition was declining - from 56 percent to 52 percent in a week.

However a BVA poll for L'Express magazine released later in the day showed the "no" vote leaping forward to 58 percent, a five-point increase on a similar study carried out 10 days before and the strongest showing yet for opponents.

The survey confirmed that the sharpest growth in the "no" camp is on the political left, where 62 percent of Socialist party (PS) supporters now reject the constitution against the advice of the party's own leadership.

However among supporters of President Jacques Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), approval of the constitution actually increased to 69 percent.

A total of 21 polls taken since mid-March have shown that the constitution will be rejected when it is put to the people in less than six weeks' time, and not a single one has suggested that the "yes" camp would win.

A television appearance by Chirac a week ago in which he argued the case for the constitution before a group of young people appears to have made no significant difference.

A survey in Thursday's edition of Le Monde newspaper gave more bad news for Chirac and other backers of the text, indicating that a clear majority of 53 percent now believe that the "no" vote will win. In a similar poll three weeks ago 58 percent thought a "yes" victory the most likely outcome.

The constitution was drawn up by a team led by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing and is meant to simplify decision-making in the expanded 25-member bloc, which will soon be 27-strong.

It must first be approved by all member states, and a rejection by so important a country as France would stop the process in its tracks.

With opposition to the text fed by widespread social discontent in France, there were fears that lobby groups would use the run-up to the May 29 vote to pressurise the centre-right government into concessions by the threat of strikes and protests.

Widespread stoppages are already threatened for May 16 - Whit Monday - which is no longer a bank holiday in most of the country after the government set aside an extra working day to pay for a special fund for health care for the aged.

Many unions say employees are being made to work for no pay, and that the fund should be financed by taxes and social charges.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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