First casualty

North Sea Diaries:

Raffarin, as expected, is to get the chop. Le Monde reports:

In a televised speech on Sunday evening, President Jacques Chirac announced that he had ?noted? the significant No vote on the European Constitution and that he would make a decision ?in the coming few days? about his government? Jacques Chirac said he would take a decision quickly about his government and his ?priorities”, suggesting an imminent replacement of his prime minister Raffarin.


The ?no? was won by the extreme left (PCF and other far-left supporters voted 94-98% against) and the extreme right (Front National supporters voted 93% against). The moderate left was moderately against (PS supporters 56% against). Supporters of the EU-federalist liberal UDF party voted massively in favour (76%), as did supporters of President Chirac?s UMP pary (80%).

(Comments are closed. No need to split the discussion on separate threads.)

Voting strength

I wonder about something… One of the arguments for the constitution, (and for the whole Nice treaty before it), is the changed voting rules are necessary because the increase in members would make the EU dysfunctional, and unable to make decisions. I was always kind of sceptical of that, but it was almost me alone against the conventional wisdom.

Well, now we don’t have to speculate, and it seems to me the EU functions perfectly smoothly. The council adapted, there was no gridlock. I haven’t heard the punditocracy claim otherwise either, and yet people still argue as streneusly that it’s vitally important to reform the rules. They’re just don’t acknowledge that they’re now arguing against the status quo, rather than a a threat in the uncertain future. It’s a bit odd.

Where’s the problem?

The one area where I have read people argue against the status quo is forein affairs. I don’t think the constitution will in practice change much, no government will defer to others on natinal interssts. I think we’ll see increasing cohesion, but because attitudes and habits are changing. But if I’m wrong it could only mean because the constitution takes away much more nat’l sovereignty than I think. I don’t think the pro.constitution pundits really should want to argue that.

(I’ll deal with the principal arguments some other time.)

Roses in Picardy

In part this vote may be decided by differing participation rates across the regions. It is clear that in some Departments the participation rates are very high. I just heard a reporter in Picardy. Apparently the anti-Maastricht (remember even the Maastricht vote was only a ‘petit oui’) sentiment was high in Picardy. Today they have a high participation. It is such factors, local and regional ones like this, which may in the end decide the vote. Strange to think that the future of Europe may be in the hands of a number of voters ‘on the margin’ over in Piccardy, and similar.

Update One: An estimate for Radio France by CSA suggest a participation as high as 82.5%. One thing is sure, the big news about this referendum, apart from the result that is, will be the participation. No-one can say this isn’t representative. Meantime the metro stations around the Chanmps Elysee have been closed – the police fear spontaneous demonstrations (of joy presumeably). The left have called for a celebratory ‘fevstival’ in the Place de la Bastille at 22:00.

BTW: it is now 20:00. All stations outside Paris and Lyon are now closed.

Update 2: The CSA has now backed off a bit, and the participation will be something in the 70’s %.

If they say no

People will vote no for many different reasons, some for opposite reasons. But it seems clear to me some complaints will be shared by nearly all no voters, as well as many yes voters. Namely, that the EU is undemocratic, that the elites don?t care what the people say, that integration has been pursued without any input from them. Furthermore, I think an appropriate reaction to defeat would be humility. Therefore I think the proper way to rewrite the constitution would be to discard with most of the expansions of the EU’s powers, and as a side dish to introduce more robust measures to make the EU more democratic and accountable. This seems like the right thing to do, and also like a politically wise thing to do. It would make it likelier that people would vote for it, wouldn’t be that vulnerable to criticism that you rerun the vote and ensuing bitterness and still get the important things from this constitutions passed

If they’d scrap language that would invite judicial activism too, I myself could vote for it with enthusiasm.

While it’s not unthinkable that they’d actually do what I’ve suggested, I wouldn’t bet on it. More likely, they’ll either have a new IGC and make some less substantial changes to the constitution, or they will just give up for a few years. Neither scenario strikes me as worse than a yes vote.

What would be worse is if they give up and then go back to IGCs without any referendums or conventions, but I don’t think they could get away with it. In a sufficiently long run I’m sure they won’t, but heightened contradictions will be a mixed blessing. One dismal scenario would be for the French government to promise never to let Turkey in, and then rerun the referendum without changes, which would also be worse, at least if it succeeded, but again I don’t see it as likely.

Over on

No one’s asking me, but I’d vote “oui”. Should you be interested to know why, I’ve laid out my reasons in luckily idiomatically edited French in my replies to publius’ questions, which they posted yesterday. They also posted the Eulogist’s replies as well as a plethora of their own reasons for their personal final decisions (publius).
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Blogging The French Referendum

Update I: Participation rates at 19:00 have just been released: 66,24 %. This means that it will surely clearly surpass the Maastricht final participation of 69,69 %. The poll estimates are talking about a final participation of 75%. This is big for a topic which many said was ‘abstract’. In Spain, the particpation was in the mid forties. The majority of polling stations close at 20:00 (in 40 minutes) but in Paris and Lyon they close at 22:00.

Well it’s a beautiful hot & sunny spring day here in Barcelona. I’ve got my web-radio tuned to France Inter (France Info) and I’m working quietly away updating some things on my website. I think today is an important day for Europe, and I’m going to be blogging live as the news comes in.
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The EU and the case for a ‘non’ (Updated)

A couple of weeks ago, Versac from the French blog Publius sent me a bunch of questions concerning my views on the EU and the Constitution. They’re interviewing a number of non-French bloggers in this way. I thought I’d publish my answers here. A sample:

The main negative thing is that it’s giving the EU more power, competences, and I think that’s inappropriate before the democratic deficit is addressed. Also, it may lead to more judicial activism, which is bad.

Voting no is a bit of a gamble, since you can’t be sure it will push the governments in the desired direction, and not for example rule out Turkish membership to get it passed, or end up drafting an even worse constitution. But the happy scenarios seem likelier than the bad ones. We need to bloody the politician’s noses. Above all the present situation is unacceptable, and no real reform seems imminent. We need to seize the rare chance to set the EU on a new course, towards democracy and accountability. By rejecting the constitution, all bets are off.

Full interview under the fold.
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The thing about referendums

I’m quite fond of representative democracy, and don’t think replicating the Swiss or Californian system would be a particularly good idea. I do however think that referendums are an occasionally vital and necessary part of democracy, and to do away with them, like the German constitution does, would be a great mistake.

There are situations where referendums are the only acceptable alternative. As a supporter of representative democracy I disagree with people who say that this or that issue is too important to be dealt with by the normal electoral process. But I do think I think referendums are necessary when an issue is 1) divisive 2) vitally important and 3) the normal partisan system cannot properly deal with, because the fault lines are different. As a corollary, anytime sovereignty is involved, I think an issue has to be pretty minor for you not to hold a referendum.

Most of the referendums on EU memberships are textbook cases of this situation. In the case of Sweden, nearly half of voters opposed Swedish entry and for most of the campaign the no side led. Without a referendum they would have had to vote for the Green or Left parties if they wanted to stop our entry. Both quite radical non-mainstream parties who together held less than 10% of the vote. In some countries all parties were for membership. In these instances I feel not holding a referendum would be undemocratic, and would to some degree disenfranchise (to use an American term) the whole electorate.
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Blog Roundup, referendum edition

DJ Nozem: Spinning the ‘No’

Euan MacDonald (Transatalantic Assembly): A little more on the EU Constitution

S?bastien Llorca (The Fundamental principles of…) Towards a NO in France? Why?

Nosemonkey: Europe is not ambitious enough

Jerome a Paris (Daily Kos): France Votes (VII). It’s tomorrow. My bet.

Ulrich Speck: Making Sense of The French Vote. A Study in Orwellianism

Belgravia Dispatch: Why the Likely Non?

Jasper Emmering:
Maybe I just don’t get it…..

Guy on the Dutch referendum debate.

Les raisons de mon “oui”, par Emmanuel (Publius)

Marek (The Agonist): Lies and Xenophobia – the Bankruptcy of the French Left