News

Divisions Deepen After France Rejects EU Constitution

Lisa Bryant

Leftist militants wave placards reading "No, another Europe is possible" in Toulouse, southwestern France
The rejection by French voters of the European Constitution Sunday has plunged France into a political crisis. The no vote has hurt both the ruling conservative party of French President Jacques Chirac and the opposition Socialists.

The results were unequivocal. Nearly 55 percent of French voters cast their ballots against the European constitution Sunday despite an active campaign for the yes vote by France's two largest political parties: The Union for a Popular Movement party of French President Jacques Chirac, and the opposition Socialist party.

Late Sunday night, President Chirac appeared on national TV to confirm what the exit polls had indicated: That France had become the first European country to reject the EU charter.

Mr. Chirac said the French had expressed their concerns and expectations during the campaign. He said he had heard them, and vowed to give what he called "a new impulse to the government's actions."

Analysts say the French voted against the EU treaty for many reasons. Some, for example, feared they would lose generous benefits and jobs under a stronger, more free-market-oriented Europe. But many cast a protest vote against Mr. Chirac and his center-right government.

On Sunday, Mr. Chirac said he would soon announce changes in the government. Many observers believe the first change will be the departure of his unpopular prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Mr. Raffarin met with the French president Monday morning at the Elysee presidential palace, possibly, analysts say, to tender his resignation.

The short list of possible replacements includes French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin and Mr. Chirac's rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads his UMP party. Analysts also consider Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie another possible candidate as the country's next prime minister.

Sunday's rejection of the constitution amounts to one of the biggest setbacks of Mr. Chirac's marathon political career. The French president previously ruled out resigning if the constitution was rejected. But analysts believe it will likely dash the chances of 72-year-old Mr. Chirac from running for a third term in 2007.

In an interview on France-Info radio Monday morning, Socialist party leader Francois Hollande criticized the French president, and said a government reshuffle was insufficient.

Mr. Hollande said the French have expressed their anger toward the government in many ways. What's needed, he said, is real political change. But he said he did not believe Mr. Chirac was capable of initiating this change.

Mr. Chirac's conservative party is not the only one in disarray. The referendum deeply divided the opposition Socialists. It pitted Mr. Hollande against the party's number two leader, Laurent Fabius. Mr. Hollande has indicated he will not step down from power.

Now, observers are left wondering how both Mr. Chirac's conservatives and Mr. Holland's socialists will be able to rebuild their shattered ranks before presidential elections two years from now.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs