TV offensive fails to halt French drift to 'no' vote

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A majority of French voters have indicatedagain that they will reject the proposed EU constitution as France enters the "official" two-week campaign before the vote on 29 May.

A majority of French voters have indicatedagain that they will reject the proposed EU constitution as France enters the "official" two-week campaign before the vote on 29 May.

As the official phase of campaigning began yesterday - with a barrage of publicly funded television declarations by the main parties - three polls suggested that the "no" camp had edged ahead once more.

Even in so politically volatile a country as France, no recent election or referendum campaign has seen such a complex series of reversals in public opinion. Support for the EU constitutional treaty has twice led in the polls, only to succumb to the vigorous - and sometimes misleading - campaigns conducted by treaty opponents of left and right.

The "yes" camp, including most mainstream politicians and much of the media, has found it difficult to convey a simple and compelling message.

Its problems were on view in the tourist heart of Paris yesterday. Most of the best-known centre-left female politicians in the country gathered at Trocadero, with the Eiffel Tower as a photogenic backdrop. They were launching the campaign of a group called "Left women for Yes".

Despite the presence of such political stars as Elisabeth Guigou, the former justice minister, Martine Aubry, mayor of Lille, and Ségolène Royal, the former health and education minister, only around 20 members of the public turned up. They were far out-numbered by journalists and by puzzled tourists.

Before the meeting, Mme Guigou admitted that the reversal of the polls made her a "little anxious". She said, however, that she thought that the start of the official campaign, with its nightly "party political" broadcasts, would shepherd many of the 30 per cent of undecided French voters into the "yes" camp.

From the platform before the Eiffel Tower, she gave a brief speech - intended mostly for the evening TV news - in which she told French women that they owed many of their social and political rights to European initiatives. She also condemned the "lies" of "no" campaigners on the left, who have alleged that the proposed treaty would remove the right to divorce.

Although the most recent polls show some erosion of the previously solid centre-right "yes" vote, it is clear that the referendum vote on Sunday week will be decided on the centre-left. Although the leadership of the Socialist and Green parties is pro-treaty, a small majority of socialist voters, and a large majority of Green voters, now say that they will reject the constitution.

The swings in the polls in the past month have been caused almost entirely by shifts of opinion among these moderate voters of the left. On the one hand, they are tempted to support their leadership. On the other, they are attracted by the arguments of the harder left, who portray the treaty as a fundamentalist capitalist plot to destroy public services and export French jobs.

Comments