French PM puts pressure on the left

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THE FRENCH Prime Minister, Pierre Beregovoy, appealed to left-wing voters yesterday not to side with the far right in next Sunday's referendum on the Maastricht treaty on European Union.

Mr Beregovoy, in a radio interview, said he did not see how left-wingers could 'mix their votes' with those of the far-right, anti-immigration National Front led by Jean-Marie Le Pen. Both the Communist Party and the National Front are campaigning against ratification of the treaty.

The Socialist Prime Minister's appeal appeared to be designed to sow doubts among the motley coalition of opponents to Maastricht, who span the spectrum from extreme left to extreme right, with significant minorities in the conventional political parties. The tactic, to suggest that a 'no' is quite simply not respectable, has been predicted by the treaty's opponents for some weeks.

The French media are prohibited by electoral law from publishing opinion poll results in the last week of the campaign, but various sources said the police Renseignements Generaux, who are credited with particularly accurate soundings, were forecasting a 'no' majority next Sunday. Only government officials have access to such polls and are not allowed to comment.

The very last polls published at the weekend gave a slight advantage to the 'yes' voters. European diplomats in Paris said their own informal soundings put the 'noes' slightly ahead.

The start of the last week of campaigning was accompanied by Sunday's devaluation of the Italian lira within the European Monetary System and the Bundesbank's decision to cut interest rates. The prospect of a continent with a single currency effectively dominated by Germany has been a constant theme of the referendum campaign. The two financial decisions have been heralded in France as an example of how well European co-operation works.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former President, said the decision by the Bundesbank, which prides itself on its political independence, to lower interest rates within a few days of the French vote was 'not a political decision but an example of monetary co-operation'.

In the Breton city of Rennes yesterday, Henri Emmanuelli, the President of the National Assembly, was charged with mishandling the finances of the Socialist Party when he was the party's treasurer from after the last presidential election in 1988 until this year. The technical charges of receiving and abuse of influence in no way imply personal corruption but are part of a larger scandal surrounding the party's financing in the period before the introduction of a new law on campaign funding in 1990.

Although the Emmanuelli affair has no direct link to the Maastricht referendum, the latest development can only add to a general public disillusionment with politicians. Last week, Mr Emmanuelli lodged a complaint because a letter addressed to him by the examining magistrate had been leaked to the media. In it, the magistrate proposed postponing yesterday's indictment until after the referendum. Mr Emmanuelli turned down the offer.

In the Maastricht campaign, aside from the established politicians' appeal to the respectability of the average citizen, the tone has become more aggressive among the treaty's opponents. Charles Pasqua, who was Interior Minister in 1986-88 under Jacques Chirac, the leader of the Gaullist RPR, described Maastricht at a weekend rally as 'an indigestible pudding' used by its supporters to electoral advantage. French commentators interpreted his remarks as a direct attack on Mr Chirac who supports ratification of the treaty.

Philippe de Villiers, a dissident of the centre-right Union for French Democracy of Mr Giscard d'Estaing, dismissed those conservatives who support the treaty as 'yes acolytes', implying subservience to the Socialist government.

At a meeting in Toulouse, Mr Giscard d'Estaing reminded the French that their decision would be headline news 'from Singapore to San Francisco', as he warned against the 'opprobrium' of rejection. Among foreign visitors to the Toulouse meeting was Sir Anthony Meyer, known for his failed candidature against Margaret Thatcher for the Conservative Party leadership. Mr Meyer appealed to his French audience to resist 'narrow-minded nationalism'.

(Photograph omitted)