Majority among French left oppose EU constitution

29th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 29 (AFP) - Opposition to the EU's constitution has become the default position on the French left, a new opinion poll confirmed Tuesday, raising massive problems for the "yes" campaign in the run-up to the country's referendum in exactly two months.

PARIS, March 29 (AFP) - Opposition to the EU's constitution has become the default position on the French left, a new opinion poll confirmed Tuesday, raising massive problems for the "yes" campaign in the run-up to the country's referendum in exactly two months.

For the fourth time in under two weeks, a majority of the French public told the Ipsos survey in Le Figaro newspaper that they will reject the constitution on May 29. A total of 54 percent were preparing to vote "no" compared to 46 percent for the "yes."

But of deeper concern for the government of President Jacques Chirac were figures showing that most sympathisers with the political left now believe the constitution to be bad for France and Europe.

Opposition has become the majority view not just on the Trotskyist and Communist far-left, but even among the mainstream Socialists (PS) - whose leadership is actually campaigning in favour of the constitution, the survey reported.

Some 53 percent of Socialist party sympathisers are planning to vote "no" compared to 45 percent in a similar poll a week before. A mass defection of PS support would be an almost insurmountable blow for the "yes" camp.

The findings showed how the "no" campaign's bid to tar the constitution as a sell-out to unregulated market economics has struck a chord with the French public.

They also indicated that a "no" vote is no longer seen as taboo among a part of the electorate that generally describes itself as "pro-European."

The constitution is meant to streamline decision-making in the expanding bloc by creating posts of president and foreign-minister and adapting voting procedures. However it must first be approved by all 25 members, and a rejection in so large a country as France would be an unprecedented setback.

Chirac's ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and its centrist ally the Union for French Democracy (UDF) are both enthusiastic supporters of the text, as is PS leader Francois Hollande and other socialist heavyweights such as former ministers Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Jack Lang.

But the opposition now embraces a wide coalition including the far-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, traditionalist anti-Europeans such as Philippe de Villier's Movement for France - as well the growing swathe of opinion on the political left.

The PS held an internal referendum in November in which 59 percent of members toed the party line and supported the constitution, but opponents led by former prime minister Laurent Fabius have continued to mobilise and now feel emboldened by the opinion polls.

Support for the "no" camp in France has been fed by a groundswell of discontent since the start of the year, as voters increasingly identify the EU with their most pressing social concerns: ten percent unemployment, stagnant wage packets and the flight of jobs to low-protection economies in the east.

"European construction goes hand-in-hand for these people with business relocation, the decline of the welfare state and economic insecurity," said Ipsos director Pierre Giacometti.

Last week Chirac won important concessions from fellow EU leaders, including agreement to re-write the so-called Bolkestein directive opening up the services industry in Europe. The directive was proving a powerful recruiting-sergeant for opponents of the constitution.

But even this political victory appeared to have little impact on the negative polls. "Let us not delude ourselves: France is rebelling against liberal Europe," said Le Figaro in an editorial.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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