Chirac final appeal ‘too little, too late’
PARIS, May 27 (AFP) - The French press on Friday dismissed a televised plea by President Jacques Chirac for a "yes" vote on the EU constitution as too little, too late, ahead of this weekend's national referendum on the issue.
Two days ahead of Sunday’s vote, which the latest opinion polls suggest will see French electors reject the draft constitution, some papers, including Le Parisien even spoke of a state of panic in the Presidential Elysee Palace.
The paper’s final opinion poll shows the “Non” camp enjoying 55 percent support against 45 percent backing the constitution which must be ratified by all 25 EU member states for it to enter into force.
The influential Le Monde daily headline summed up the mood; “Political leaders expect defeat for the ‘Yes’ camp”.
While the press here generally welcomed the intensity of the partisan debate on the issue in recent weeks, the papers were far from unanimous on the intervention of the head of state.
“If he loses he will become a naked king,” opined Jean-Michel Thenard in the Liberation.
Chirac made a last-ditch effort to reverse the tide of opposition to the EU constitution Thursday, urging the public to vote “yes” in order to safeguard the country’s influence in Europe.
In a solemn address that began with the national anthem, Chirac sought to persuade undecided voters – estimated at about one in five – that the constitution will enhance French force in the EU, protect the country’s social model and improve Europe’s democratic institutions.
But according to Liberation, Chirac’s TV appearance was an attempt to save his own political career “to protect himself against the disaster which he himself has sown”. In his televised address Chirac, for the first time, suggested that he might dismiss Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin right after the vote.
If he loses, Chirac will regret not having intervened in the debate earlier and with more enthusiasm, said a regional paper in Provence, the La République du Centre, a sentiment echoed in other regional dailies including the L’Indépendant du Midi which spoke of “a tardy response to the concerns of the French people”.
Subject: French News