The cat i' the adage

"The growth of knowledge depends entirely on disagreement" Karl Popper (1902 - 1994)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Chirac prepares for plan B

How they all twist and turn to get their own way:

PRESIDENT CHIRAC of France is preparing to throw Europe into confusion and put Britain on the spot by backing moves to keep the European constitution alive if it is rejected in Sunday’s referendum.
French diplomats say that M Chirac is expected to urge other countries to proceed with ratification because France does not want to be seen to be blocking the European project. Any attempt to persuade other countries to go ahead will dash the hopes of those in the British Government who believed that a French rejection would make a British referendum unnecessary.

I like the sound of that. I'd love the British to have a chance decisively to kick these grandiose and archaic politicians' dreams into the long grass. But wait, what's this?

But one option being discussed in senior diplomatic circles is for candidates in the French presidential election in 2007 to promise to ratify the treaty in parliament rather than by referendum.

If the people won't vote for it, we won't ask them again. The referendum was only intended to give the whole thing a veneer of democratic accountability, but we'll make do without, if necessary.

French political students at Sciences Po would appear to share this dissatisfaction with the electorate.

Meanwhile in Holland there is reflection on what can go wrong when you ask the people:

On June 1, just three days after the planned referendum in France, the Netherlands is holding its own national referendum on the new European Union (EU) constitution. Polls indicate that the government of Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende is facing a serious defeat. A recent opinion poll showed the majority of the population is against the draft constitution, opposing the position of all major political parties in the Dutch parliament.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they would vote “no” on the constitution, just 12 percent said they would vote “yes” and 26 percent were undecided. These figures mark a complete reversal of national opinion compared to even less than six months ago. In December of last year, the Eurobarometer survey reported 73 percent in favour of the constitution. Since then, the number of supporters has decreased with each passing month.

The apparent strong support for the constitution was a considerable factor in the decision to hold the referendum in the first place—the first ever in Dutch modern history.

The Dutch referendum is not binding on government. I doubt, though, that the government could afford to overlook a very clear result.


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