Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Spanish practices

It isn’t fair to mock these people, I know, but one cannot quite resist it. Not only have we had to put up with a demonstration in Spain protesting against the Iraqi elections – are these people against democracy in general or only for Iraq and other Arab countries, one wonders – but we also have to watch the Spanish government (elected in a rather curious response to the terrorist outrage in Madrid) trying to be the first member state to bring in the desired yes vote.

Well, of course, we have had two yes votes, in Lithuania and Hungary, but these had not gone to a referendum. February 20 will be the first of the latter. (By the way, memo to the journalists on the International Herald Tribune: the vote is not going to be about Spain’s “stronger ties with the European Union”, no matter what the political spin doctors may say. Spain is a member of the European Union and there can be no closer ties. They are to vote on the constitution for the whole Union.)

The result in Spain is not in any doubt. 80 per cent are saying they are in favour, whatever it is they are in favour of – presumably, the very good deal they are getting from the European Union.

The reason I say that is not to make derogatory comments about Spaniards (well, not about this, anyway). Ninety per cent have also said that they have no real idea of what is in the European Constitution. In fact, a recent Commission poll says that only 11 per cent of the population in the EU feels confident that they know what that document contains. It is not clear, what proportion of each member state was questioned.

The problem for the Spanish government is the turn-out. As the article in the Trib puts it:
“All but the most optimistic projections put voter turnout below 50 per cent,and critics of the government’s approach worry that a very low turn-out, say under 30 per cent, could raise the vote’s credibility.”
How different from the situation in Iraq, where a 55 per cent turn-out across the country, and a considerably higher one than that in some regions, cannot really put the vote’s validity into doubt.

By the way, I trust all our readers know what that vote was for: to choose a commission that would debate and write a new constitution for Iraq. Ahem, I do not remember voting for M Giscard d’Estaing’s Convention. Nor do I remember any debate about the monstrous document that arrived in the member states without the slightest possibility of amendment.

We cannot go around asking the people of Europe can we now. The people of Iraq? Now, that is something else again.

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