French European Constitution referendum, 2005

The French referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was held on 29 May 2005 to decide whether France should ratify the proposed Constitution of the European Union. The result was a victory for the "No" campaign, with 55% of voters rejecting the treaty on a turnout of 69%.

The question put to voters was:

Approuvez-vous le projet de loi qui autorise la ratification du traité établissant une Constitution pour l'Europe ?
"Do you approve the bill authorising the ratification of the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe?"

France was the first country to reject the treaty, and the second country to go to the polls in a referendum on ratification, after a Spanish referendum approved the treaty by a wide margin in February 2005. France's rejection of the Constitution left the treaty with an uncertain future, with other EU member states pledging to continue with their own arrangements for ratification.

Campaign

National referendums on the
European Constitutional Treaty
Superseded by the Treaty of Lisbon (2007)

President Jacques Chirac's decision to hold a referendum was thought in some part to have been influenced in part by the surprise announcement that the United Kingdom was to hold a vote of its own, though it was also widely commented that the expected easy victory would also be an expression of confidence in the President. Moreover, it would do much to cement his legacy as a French statesman. It would also have a divisive effect on the opposition Socialist Party.[1] Although the adoption of a Constitution had initially been played down as a 'tidying-up' exercise with no need for a popular vote, as increasing numbers of EU member states announced their intention to hold a referendum, the French government came under increasing pressure to follow suit.

The date was announced on 4 March 2005. Opinion polling had shown the "Yes" and "No" campaigns in the lead at various times, but in the weeks leading up the referendum the "No" campaign consistently held the lead. This led many, even some on the "Yes" side, to predict openly that France would reject the Constitution.[2]

Socialist Party vote on stance

On 1 December 2004, the opposition Socialist Party held a vote among its members to determine the stance it would take. The issue of the Constitution had caused considerable divisions within the party, with many members—although broadly in favour of European integration—opposing the Constitution for reasons including a perceived lack of democratic accountability, and the threat they considered it posed to the European social model. The "Yes" side was led by party leader François Hollande while the "No" side was led by deputy leader Laurent Fabius. A former prime minister of France (1984–1986), Laurent Fabius traditionally on the center right of the Socialist Party opted for the No to the Constitution, switching to the left of the party. For many commentators, this paradoxical move was a gamble to get the upper hand within the party before the next presidential elections, in case of success of the No vote.[3]

Within the Socialist Party, out of 127,027 members eligible to vote, 59% voted "Yes", with a turnout of 79%. Out of 102 Socialist Party regional federations, 26 voted "No".

Amendment to the French Constitution

The Constitutional Council of France ruled that the European Constitution could not legally coexist with the current Constitution of France. For that reason, a vote was taken to amend the Constitution of France to make the two documents compatible.

This amendment passed in an extraordinary joint session of deputies and senators at the Palace of Versailles on 28 February 2005, with 730 votes in favour and 66 votes against, with 96 abstentions. Both the ruling party and the Socialists supported the constitutional amendment. Communist Party members were the only ones to vote against it.[4]

Opinion polls and course of the campaign

Initial opinion polls showed a clear majority in favour of the Constitution, but public opposition grew over time. By May, the "Yes" campaign's lead was smaller than the opinion pollsters' margin of error.

The three major political forces in France (UMP, PS and UDF) supported the proposed Constitution, as did president Chirac. Supporters of the Constitution from the left sought to emphasise that the treaty incorporates a Charter of Fundamental Rights and thus helped to secure the future of the European social model. Somewhat surprisingly considering his usual political orientation, Jacques Chirac defended it as a possible barrier against neoliberal economic policies.

Objections to the Constitution in France can be broadly divided into two camps. On the left, many expressed the view that the Constitution would enforce a neoliberal economic model. Among those were some members of the Socialist Party who dissented from the party's stance as decided by its internal referendum, some members of the Green Party (though the party's official policy was also to support ratification), the Communist Party and the Citizen and Republican Movement - a small party allied to the Socialist Party. The Radical Party of the Left, another ally of the Socialist Party, was divided on the question: its main representatives were for the Constitution, while Christiane Taubira, who was candidate for the PRG in 2002, was against it.

Other parties of the hard left, such as the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League and Workers' Struggle, as well as associations like ATTAC and trade unions such as the CGT or SUD opposed ratification. These critics sought to link the Constitution to the proposed directive on services in the internal market, which is widely opposed in France.

There were also prominent opponents of the Constitution from the right, notably Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (a Gaullist) and Philippe de Villiers (of the Movement for France), and from the extreme right, Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front, who opposed the Constitution on the grounds that France should not be part of any institution whose decisions can take precedence over what is decided in France at a national level. Another factor in the defeat of the Constitution may have been the linking of the Constitution in the minds of voters with the possibility of the accession of Turkey to the European Union, with which most of the French population disagrees.

Results

French European Constitution referendum, 2005
Choice Votes %
No 15,449,508 54.67
Yes 12,808,270 45.33
Valid votes 28,257,778 97.48
Invalid or blank votes 730,522 2.52
Total votes 28,988,300 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 41,789,202 69.37
Source: French Minister of the Interior

By departament

Departament For Against Electorate Votes Valid votes Invalid votes
Paris532,040268,6171,084,114813,783800,65713,126
Seine-et-Marne225,904278,308733,535515,100504,21210,888
Yvelines353,085240,020836,989603,361593,10510,256
Essonne236,408243,221685,325489,493479,6299,864
Hauts-de-Seine358,968220,915826,795590,084579,88310,201
Seine-Saint-Denis150,848241,151637,385400,193391,9998,194
Val-de Marne229,880229,921684,036468,400459,8018,599
Val-de Oise191,269219,831616,343419,287411,1008,187
Ardennes47,47880,125192,179130,267127,6032,664
Aube56,80775,345196,136135,355132,1523,203
Marne113,948131,988370,728251,129245,9365,193
Haute-Marne39,79555,921141,07398,15795,7162,441
Aisne85,475171,616366,193262,564257,0915,473
Oise134,591223,129513,072364,718357,7206,998
Somme95,893192,968400,004295,053288,8616,192
Eure100,447170,308382,292276,369270,7555,614
Seine-Maritime208,546388,712841,738609,469597,25812,211
Cher60,93592,927226,259158,261153,8624,399
Eure-et-Loir82,338111,075279,243198,386193,4134,973
Indre44,87177,338174,877126,492122,2094,283
Indre-et-Loire123,389146,707378,397276,931270,0966,835
Loir-et-Cher67,72197,425232,895169,794165,1464,648
Loiret133,025153,360412,617294,019286,3857,634
Calvados142,966180,191459,573330,020323,1576,863
Manche114,958136,363359,667257,898251,3216,577
Orne66,47882,947211,837153,240149,4253,815
Côte-d'Or107,202125,347331,637237,934232,5495,385
Nièvre41,76472,635166,883117,365114,3992,966
Saône-et-Loire107,843157,135397,394273,830264,9788,852
Yonne64,03797,586236,494165,341161,6233,718
Nord437,285711,5801,725,2961,174,9681,148,86526,103
Pas-de-Calais224,109510,5091,055,794752,109734,61817,491
Meurthe-et-Moselle138,272180,239473,008324,790318,5116,279
Meuse39,61856,103137,90197,94395,7212,222
Moselle209,035253,176721,154472,035462,2119,824
Vosges80,147115,518283,696201,251195,6655,586
Bas-Rhin256,189200,433687,298469,067456,62212,445
Haut-Rhin162,079163,923489,991334,895326,0028,893
Doubs110,011128,414337,752244,753238,4256,328
Jura54,89974,398180,881133,094129,2973,797
Haute-Saône46,09979,224175,160129,050125,3233,727
Territoire de Belfort23,69039,52989,51164,78063,2191,561
Loire-Atlantique305,127291,722844,344614,434596,84917,585
Maine-et-Loire192,037170,367518,825375,170362,40412,766
Mayenne77,28570,285214,687153,542147,5705,972
Sarthe113,383152,878387,989274,574266,2618,313
Vendée154,034152,786441,749318,454306,82011,634
Côtes-d'Armor146,445166,991430,720321,966313,4368,530
Finistère232,396222,193640,668466,318454,58911,729
Ille-et-Vilaine240,065206,110628,199459,623446,17513,448
Morbihan183,367178,653509,176372,215362,02010,195
Charente71,631104,108253,451180,984175,7395,245
Charente Maritime130,573163,652426,181302,580294,2258,355
Deux-Sèvres88,43393,253261,766188,900181,6867,214
Vienne91,453112,596288,959210,732204,0496,683
Dordogne83,512138,347300,288229,019221,8597,160
Gironde276,219355,495886,995646,377631,71414,663
Landes79,132110,917265,975195,935190,0495,886
Lot-et-Garonne62,741102,203230,573170,316164,9445,372
Pyrénées-Atlantiques154,086167,831460,580331,988321,91710,071
Ariège28,43549,949109,38480,92478,3842,540
Aveyron71,74382,493213,821160,990154,2366,754
Haute-Garonne240,661281,408733,866536,274522,06914,205
Gers40,94957,502136,301102,32898,4513,877
Lot38,55957,282128,31399,10795,8413,266
Hautes-Pyrénées47,67174,636170,504125,951122,3073,644
Tarn78,028113,268264,190199,171191,2967,875
Tarn-et-Garonne42,78469,233156,426115,806112,0173,789
Corrèze57,35175,804183,650137,807133,1554,652
Creuse25,43341,38699,70669,36166,8192,542
Haute-Vienne74,573111,589259,304193,223186,1627,061
Ain110,194123,377346,686239,628233,5716,057
Ardèche64,24996,376224,529165,306160,6254,681
Drôme93,060129,696318,483228,801222,7566,045
Isère232,316268,107730,733512,671500,42312,248
Loire141,887179,386485,077331,063321,2739,790
Rhône349,663295,735945,746659,433645,39814,035
Savoie90,33195,412271,196190,416185,7434,673
Haute-Savoie159,529136,243437,412303,109295,7727,337
Allier68,600103,813253,647177,961172,4135,548
Cantal38,99943,203121,97584,99482,2022,792
Haute-Loire49,99868,759168,088123,232118,7574,475
Puy-de-Dôme129,582173,932428,309312,453303,5148,939
Aude60,912111,233241,648176,805172,1454,660
Gard116,669208,200455,217332,051324,8697,182
Hérault181,531273,892654,395469,442455,42314,019
Lozère19,40922,57258,97243,43541,9811,454
Pyrénées-Orientales72,704132,256294,226209,578204,9604,618
Alpes-de Haute-Provence32,07248,647112,63282,96180,7192,242
Haute Alpes30,53638,66697,82371,23669,2022,034
Alpes-Maritimes208,426230,818668,088447,793439,2448,549
Bouches-du-Rôhne308,040498,4131,179,550820,994806,45314,541
Var189,811257,183666,146455,280446,9948,286
Vaucluse91,639154,004350,503251,325245,6435,682
Corse-du-Sud20,52629,18388,64650,39949,709690
Haute-Corse25,07233,181106,29659,02358,253770
Guadeloupe33,77923,863289,44364,29257,6426,650
Martinique48,17921,620272,33977,25269,7997,453
French Guiana6,8504,54154,76212,65511,3911,264
Réunion95,298142,871471,155252,641238,16914,472
Sainte Pierre and Miquelon1,1396784,8051,8791,81762
Mayotte17,5852,75455,90421,05220,339713
Wallis and Futuna4,77255010,3855,3675,32245
French Polynesia30,64911,404157,04442,74942,053696
New Caledonia35,9489,691135,21746,98845,6391,349
Source: European Election Database

Consequences

The possible consequences of a "No" vote were highly debated in France before the referendum. Proponents of the Constitution, including Jacques Chirac, claimed that France's standing in Europe had been considerably weakened.

Pro-EU campaigners for a "No" vote (as opposed to those opposing the EU altogether) argue that the Constitution will be renegotiated. "No" vote campaigners, particularly the prominent socialist Laurent Fabius, have labelled this option Plan B. Campaigners for a "Yes" vote have stated that there would be no such Plan B and that the 'European project' could be brought to a standstill for at least ten years.

Practically the perspective of a renegotiation quickly appeared illusory after the result of the referendum. First, the challenge of a renegotiation was made all the greater by the diversity of reasons for the rejection of the treaty.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was quickly replaced by Dominique de Villepin. UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy returned to cabinet as Minister of the Interior.

Although this rejection and the similar vote in the Dutch referendum seriously damaged the Constitution, subsequent EU Presidency holders have vowed to keep it going.

Sarkozy was elected President of the French Republic in May 2007. Amongst his pledges was a re-negotiation and ratification of a mini-treaty without a referendum. Eventually, the new version of the text, the Lisbon Treaty, was voted by the Parliament.

On the internal political scene, the success of the referendum did not have the expected effect on the political landscape. Begrudged by the members of the Socialist Party for his divisive role, Laurent Fabius lost the race to the presidential primaries for the 2007 elections, finishing third (18.66%) behind Segolene Royal (60.65%) and Dominique Strauss-Kahn (20.83%). The proponents of the Yes eventually got the upper hand in the party, and the lasting division of the far left prevented the apparition of a strong opposition force on left of the Socialist Party by the proponents of the No. On the right of the political spectrum, the far right did not benefit from the success of the No and suffered, for the first time in 15 years a strong decline in the 2007 elections.

See also

References

  1. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20041004af.html
  2. "France names EU referendum date". 4 March 2005 via news.bbc.co.uk.
  3. Henley, John (1 December 2004). "Euro fighters". The Guardian.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 March 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2005.

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