JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.
French voters today roundly rejected the European Union's first constitution. The vote is a blow both to the EU and to French President Jacques Chirac, who'd lobbied hard for a yes vote. The constitution is aimed at strengthening European unity and streamlining EU bureaucracy. But each of the union's 25 members must approve for it to take effect. The Netherlands is set to vote on the constitution later this week. Reporter Eleanor Beardsley joins me now from Paris.
Eleanor, how did this vote break down?
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY reporting:
Well, it was a huge turnout. Seventy percent of people--the eligible voters showed up, and about 55 percent voted for this constitution. So as Chirac himself said, it's a massive and democrat defeat of the European Constitution.
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LUDDEN: And you seem to be surrounded by people, though, who are celebrating the no vote. Is that right?
BEARDSLEY: That's right. I'm in front of the party headquarters for the Sobvrent Sovereignty Party(ph), which was sort of an obscure party, but now they've gained huge momentum because they were behind the no vote. And everyone is very happy here tonight.
LUDDEN: You were out speaking with voters earlier throughout the day. Can you give us a sense of what reasons people said they were voting no?
BEARDSLEY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there was just very many disparate reasons. It all started with anger at the Chirac government for the unemployment, for his economic reform programs. But a lot of people were angry that they hadn't been asked about European enlargement a year ago. And then the people that were against it also were very disparate. You had on the far right the Jean-Marie Le Pen followers and others, who were scared that France was going to lose its sovereignty, that--you know ...(unintelligible). And then on the far left you had Communists who were tying this treaty to, like, a cut-throat Anglo-Saxon-style capitalism. They said it was going to come take away jobs that, you know--and leave no social protections. So very--as the former prime minister Lionel Jospin call it, a motley coalition of no known supporters. And he said, `What are we going to do? Put these in a cocktail shaker and give this no shaker to our astonished European allies?'
LUDDEN: President Chirac very much wanted a yes vote. What does this rejection mean for him?
BEARDSLEY: Well, for Chirac, it's a huge and stinging and stunning defeat for him. It means he will probably not--definitely not run again in 2007. And his--he has to reform his government; his prime minister will probably leave office this week, if not tomorrow morning. And, you know, I think maybe he's lost--he's been weakened in France and he's lost stature on the international stage. In Europe, he won't have the same stature, now that France has said no. And maybe worse for him is for his legacy. He's going to go down in history as being the French president under whose mandate European construction came to a screeching halt.
LUDDEN: And what happens now with the EU Constitution?
BEARDSLEY: Well, no one's quite sure. The French were assured by the yes politicians that there wsa no plan But, but people seem to think, you know, `We want a Europe, just not this Europe.' However, it's going to be a long time before, you know--the constitution will still be ratified by other countries, says Brussels. But, you know, frankly, the Dutch are probably going to vote on Wednesday. This constitution is probably dead in the water now. Some think they'll have to go back to the drawing board, and no one is really quite sure what will happen. But in the immediate future, Europe is still--they're not a solid force, and they've been weakened. As someone told me, you know, a pro-Europe supporter, they said, `It's a black day for France and especially for Europe.'
LUDDEN: Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thank you.
BEARDSLEY: Thank you.
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