Monday, May 23, 2005

French Democracy in Action

The London Sunday Times uncovers Chirac's secret weapon in assuring a "Oui" vote on the EU Constitution: Chirac counts on jungle tribes to swing EU vote:
AMONG the Wayampi Indians it is not uncommon for children to give birth at 10 and become grandparents in their twenties. They hunt and fish in red loincloths. Their favourite food is smoked alligator. They are also among Europe’s most civic-minded citizens.
Apparently, Chirac and the EU are courting nominal European voters in the French overseas territories in a frantic attempt to get the draft constitution passed:
The Wayampi are among the most pampered “Europeans” anywhere. Their new landing stage on the river Oyapock was paid for by Brussels. The EU also funded the school in Comapi, whose big moment was a visit in 1997 from President Jacques Chirac to inaugurate the local dirt airstrip.

Chirac no doubt wishes the unpredictable French could be more like the Wayampi. They are expected to turn out in big numbers to vote “yes”.
Pampered, yes, but qualified to vote?
Many speak only rudimentary French and have little understanding of qualified majority voting, but an election is always a welcome occasion for a gathering in this alligator-infested corner of French Guiana in South America... a television message to the Dom Toms, broadcast from the Elysée Palace, he (Chirac)reminded voters how much they benefit from EU money: Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and La Réunion received £2.2 billion in aid between 2000 and 2006 and the £34m received by French Guiana in the past year amounts to about £650 a voter.
And its not just French Guiana. There are 1.4m voters in France's overseas territories, including those in the "...Wallis and Futuna islands in the Pacific, where three kings rule by fiat..."

According to the Times, overwhelming support in these territories helped the Maastricht treaty gain a slim margin of 540,000 votes back in 1992. With so many in France claiming that Bush stole the 2000 election, wouldn't it be ironic if victory for a united Europe came from the swamps of South America?

Chirac is leaning on the foreign territories since polls at home are showing the "Non" vote running at 53% despite a heavy media campaign in favor of the constitution, a campaign that has drawn criticism from some French reporters:
"This is a grotesque situation," says Jacques Cotta, a well-known TV correspondent for France 2 who is one of the leaders of the campaign for fair coverage in the lead-up to the referendum.

"Publicly-owned media in France are broadcasting sheer propaganda to the public, and this absence of any pluralism or any attempt to represent and discuss the point of view of those who want to vote No to the Treaty is profoundly undemocratic"
As the BBC reports, over 15,000 people have signed an on-line petition protesting the biased coverage.
France's best-known Eurosceptic MP, Philippe de Villiers, has warned his supporters that they face what he called an "incredible bludgeoning" by the political and media elite.