'No' camp accuses French government of propaganda

23rd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 22 (AFP) - Buoyed by polls showing they are backed by most of the public, French opponents of the EU constitution on Tuesday accused the government of illegal propaganda for issuing a pre-referendum information dossier which they say is clearly biased towards the "yes" camp.

PARIS, March 22 (AFP) - Buoyed by polls showing they are backed by most of the public, French opponents of the EU constitution on Tuesday accused the government of illegal propaganda for issuing a pre-referendum information dossier which they say is clearly biased towards the "yes" camp.

Philippe de Villiers, who heads the anti-EU Movement for France, filed suit before the Constitutional Council - the body that supervises elections in France - claiming that a text that accompanies a copy of the EU constitution "is of a nature to pervert the sincerity of the vote."

Another opponent, Alain Bocquet, who heads the Communist party bloc in the National Assembly, said the text gives a "partial and slanted reading" of the constitution.

"Rather than dodging the democratic debate by tricks of communication, it would be fairer for the state to give every party ... the means to put out its own arguments," Bocquet said.

The controversial document - entitled a "presentation of motives" - is contained in a dossier to be sent out to France's 42 million voters by May 14 - two weeks ahead of the referendum on May 29.

It states that the constitutional treaty will allow an expanding Europe "to respond to new hopes: more freedom and security, more growth and solidarity, a stronger presence in the world, protection of the environment, defence of our identity, respect for cultural diversity."

In conclusion it says that the constitution, "by reinforcing what has already been achieved in Europe, allows it to pursue its progress to the benefit of each one of its peoples."

At no point in the document does it recognise that there are counter-arguments to the constitution.

Opponents of the treaty - who include the far-right and far-left, a majority of the Socialist party (PS) and a minority in the ruling party of President Jacques Chirac - have been emboldened by two recent polls showing for the first time that they are in the lead in the campaign.

They had more good news Tuesday when a survey showed that 69 percent of farmers - a small but popular section of the population - are against the constitution.

A leading member of the PS, Henri Emmanuelli, meanwhile defied his party's leadership by announcing plans to set up groups within each department, or county, to campaign for a "no" vote.

"Millions of socialist electors are not going to be impressed by this false alternative - for or against Europe - but understand that they can vote against the treaty and at the same time keep their hope of a social and democratic continent," Emmanuelli said.

Most of the growth in the "no" camp in recent weeks has come on the political left, with a debate over the EU's controversial "open services" directive acting as a red rag for groups who believe the EU has already sold out to "Anglo-Saxon" business interests.

Pressure was growing on Chirac to step into the debate, after supporters of the constitution complained that the "yes" campaign has failed to get off the ground.

Dominique de Villepin, Chirac's interior minister and close ally, warned that rejection of the constitution would be a humiliation for France from which it would find it hard to recover.

"France would be in a corner ... and would no longer have influence on Europe's future ... It would be a humiliated France that finds it hard to look at itself because it would have suddenly shrunk," he said on RTL radio.

"If you want a France that is submissive and dominated, then that is what the 'no' is going to achieve," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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