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French all at sea

Posted by Richard Saturday, April 30, 2005

Two polls on the EU constitution present different pictures of the state of the French electorate. The first, carried out by TNS-Sofres-Unilog for the RTL radio station indicates that 52 percent of decided voters would vote "oui", although nearly a quarter of the 1,000 people questioned said they had still not made up their minds.

The significant aspect of this poll is that is shows Socialist Party voters coming back into the fold. With the official party supporting the constitution, now only 51 percent of socialists are against the constitution compared with 63 percent in a survey by the same organisation published on 20 April.

On the other hand, according to a survey of voters by Ifop for Le Journal du Dimanche, French opposition is holding steady at 52 percent. This one, which questioned 795 voters on 28 April, showed the same reading as a poll 22-23 April for Le Figaro. In this current poll, though, thirty percent of people polled said they could still change their mind.

Both polls, however, were taken after an unsuccessful television appearance by L'escroc Chirac but before the interventions of Jacques Delors and Jospin, old socialists both, and it remains to be seen how they might have influenced sentiment.

According to The Independent though, the Blogs are winning the battle for the "no" campaign. Europe's political elite, the paper says, are coming to terms with a new fact: the battle may yet be won and lost in cyberspace and it is the "no" campaign that seems to have sparked the imagination of French bloggers.

So concerned is the EU commission about the increasing influence of les Bloggeurs that the Fragrant Margot has been driven to producing a French version of her occasional Blog. "It was a gesture towards the French", said her spokesman Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, "since all eyes are on the French referendum".

Dowgielewicz argues that the Blogging phenomenon will be increasingly relevant to politics in the EU. "You could see in the American presidential elections that bloggers were able to set the agenda," he says. "This is a very attractive way to communicate a message that could not be heard otherwise. Serious newspapers would not publish something in that form but you can put a string of comments on a blog.”

The Fragrant Margot is said to be "extremely satisfied" with her blog which, her office says, has had more than 60,000 hits. However, despite the new French version, its impact on the referendum may not be massive: yesterday only two of the comments by bloggers were in French. It might, of course, help if Margot descended off her plinth and actually got stuck in, answering some of the comments.

This notwithstanding, the Frogs seems to be all at sea with their referendum which given the record of French naval victories (not), is not a happy position for these amphibians. Looks like Trafalgar Day might be a little early this year which, given that it is 200 years since Nelson dished the French fleet, could be rather appropriate.