'Non' still ahead one week before EU treaty vote

20th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 20 (AFP) - Opponents of the EU constitution in France remain in the lead with little more than a week to go before the May 29 referendum, a new poll revealed Friday, as both sides shifted their campaigns into high gear.

PARIS, May 20 (AFP) - Opponents of the EU constitution in France remain in the lead with little more than a week to go before the May 29 referendum, a new poll revealed Friday, as both sides shifted their campaigns into high gear.  

The survey conducted by the BVA polling institute showed that 53 percent of decided voters will cast their ballots to reject the treaty, against 47 percent who support the charter. Nineteen percent of those asked were still undecided.  

After a brief bright spot in the polls for the "yes" campaign earlier this month, the "no" camp has surged back into the lead in the past week, with five surveys all pointing to a rejection of the EU constitution.  

A separate poll by BVA-L'Express spelled more bad news for President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin - their popularity ratings have plummeted to 39 percent for the president, and just 21 percent for Raffarin.  

Just over a week before French voters go to the polls, both sides of the campaign are rallying their forces, with a harsh war of words erupting on the country's political left, which is deeply split on the issue.  

Former Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, whose two prior campaign appearances earned high marks, urged his sceptical party faithful late Thursday to join the "yes" camp, picking apart the arguments of treaty opponents.  

"To those who are tempted to vote no, I say that they have every chance of being deceived," Jospin told 3,000 Socialist party (PS) supporters at a rally in the western city of Nantes, warning against a protest vote to punish Chirac.  

"If the French vote no, there will be no change in France, but just a no to Europe," the former prime minister cautioned.  

Pollsters agree that left-leaning voters hold the key to the results on May 29. Jospin and the PS leadership are campaigning for the constitution, while former prime minister Laurent Fabius leads the left's "no" camp.  

Former Communist party leader Robert Hue hit back at Jospin on Friday, condemning his "arrogance" and the "constant stream of chatter from the yes camp".  

Chirac, whose ruling centre-right party is leading the "yes' camp with the PS, will appeal to voters in France's overseas territories in a radio interview late Friday, while Raffarin will campaign outside Paris at the weekend.  

Some treaty supporters fear that the unpopular Raffarin can only hurt their efforts. According to the BVA poll, 62 percent of those surveyed said he was unconvincing in a live television interview earlier in the week.  

The "no" camp has gained ground on talk of a possible "plan B" should the treaty be rejected - meaning its eventual renegotiation. The BVA survey showed that 69 percent of French people believe the charter can be rewritten.  

Chirac, along with EU officials and other leaders, has repeatedly ruled out any renegotiation, a message hammered home on Thursday during a summit with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in eastern France.  

The constitution, which aims to simplify the operating rules of the European Union following expansion to the post-communist east, must be ratified by all 25 member states. So far, seven have done so.  

A rejection by so important a country as France - one of the bloc's six founding members - would leave the treaty dead in its tracks, and plunge the EU into political uncertainty.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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