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France Votes on EU Constitution

Lisa Bryant

A voter picks up a "no" ballot in a polling station in Paris
France's 42 million voters are being summoned to the polls today to vote in a referendum on Europe's new constitution. Politicians across the European Union fear the French will be the first Europeans to vote against the charter. In Paris, Lisa Bryant got a few early reactions from those voting in the French capital.

People trickled in to the 19th arrondissement town hall in northern Paris on a sunny Sunday morning to cast their ballots for the new European constitution. Richard Graf, a civil servant, was one of them.

Mr. Graf said he was voting "yes" to the new European constitution. He believes it will bring more democracy to France. And he thinks the charter will help Europe become a powerful political counterweight to the United States.

But several other voters here said they had voted against the European treaty. That includes 68-year-old retiree, Antoine Chiasso.

Mr. Chiasso said the constitution was very complicated and hard to understand. There were so many articles and so many pages, it was hard to say "yes" or "no" to it. Politicians have tried to explain it, he said, but he hasn't found their arguments convincing. So he voted 'no,' because he wants to keep the status quo.

Herve Falloux, who was standing outside the city hall with his year-and-a-half-old daughter, said he would also vote against the European constitution.

Mr. Falloux criticized the treaty as too heavily oriented toward a liberal, free-market economy. He is an actor by profession, and he also fears the charter erodes support for Europe's movie industry.

All 25 EU members need to ratify the constitution by parliamentary vote or popular referendum for it to go into effect. A single rejection theoretically kills the charter, although some analysts say there may be ways to save it.

Several polls leading up to Sunday's referendum show the majority of French oppose the constitution. But a significant slice - up to one in five French - remained undecided about how they would vote in the final days of the campaign. Politicians in favor of the treaty, including French President Jacques Chirac, hope those undecided voters will help them win a "yes" for the constitution - despite the polls.

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