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French Socialists Back EU Constitution


French Socialists supporting the new European constitution are savoring a victory today, after the party's rank-and-file voted in favor of the charter.

Results announced Thursday found some 59 percent of Socialist party members voted in favor of the European constitution, in a national referendum held the night before.

The vote has no direct consequences on the charter, but it was being closely watched in Europe.

That is partly because the Socialist vote may be a sort of litmus test of what will happen next year, when the French - in a national referendum - vote on whether or not they support the constitution. The constitution must be ratified by all 25 members of the European Union, to go into effect.

Top Socialist Party politician Segolene Royal calls Wednesday's vote a great victory for Europe.

Ms. Royal told France Info radio that, if ordinary French voters follow the example of Socialist Party members next year, France will be able to weigh in on Europe.

Center for European Reform researcher Aurore Wanlin says the party referendum also has major consequences for France's Socialists.

"Another question at stake is the future of the Socialist Party," said Aurore Wanlin. "In 2007, there will be a presidential election. So, basically, the internal referendum [this week] will decide the program of the Socialist Party to run for these elections and who will be the leader."

Potential presidential candidates include Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande, Ms. Royal's partner, who supported the constitution. But the vote marks a defeat for another potential presidential hopeful - former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius - who led the faction against the European constitution.

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