Sunday, April 03, 2005

Six down and still "non"

In the sixth consecutive opinion poll on the French EU referendum since 17 March, the "nons" come out once again as the clear winners. Fifty-five percent of those polled have declared their intention to vote "no", against 45 percent who intend to vote "yes".

This is according to an Ifop poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper conducted on 31 March and 1 April, which shows a two percentage point rise in the "no" vote from 24 March when the same company carried out a survey for Paris-Match. As with previous polls, though, just over a third of those questioned said they could change their view.

In an interview with Le Figaro, former EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy professed to express no surprise at the results at this stage of the campaign, given the "uncertainty, the ignorance of the issues and confusion" in the face of this "unknown object" on the table: the European constitutional draft treaty.

He is relying on the large proportion of "undecideds" and declared that: "It is time that a 'serious' debate began."

However, Lamy and his colleagues may be over-optimistic in believing that "ignorance" is the major factor in the "no" sentiment. According to a report on the BBC website, the EU constitution has become a surprise bestseller in France with La Chaine Info TV claiming that 200,000 copies of the constitution had sold in four months.

"The number of sales is quite unusual for a topic related to political science or even economics," bookseller Jeanne-Marie Alluin. "Not many books sell so well."

Foreign minister Michel Barnier, nevertheless, is stepping up the government campaign to promote the constitution, sending off a team of campaign buses on a month-long "Tour de France" to inform people about the treaty. If sales of the constitution continue at their present rate, he may find that their efforts are wasted as experience would suggest that the more people know about the constitution, the less they like it.

Furthermore, with the death of Pope John Paul II (about which Helen will be writing), the government may find it has to suspend active campaigning for a period. Altogether, things do not look good for the project.

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