IN OTHER WORDS : A referendum

French President Jacques Chirac has been making a desperate case for a yes vote in the referendum he called for May 29 on a new EU Constitution. Chirac’s brief is not easy to make, in part because he and his centre-right government are part of the problem. Chirac reminded the ‘’telespectateurs” at the start of his two-hour telecast they will be voting on the question of France’s ‘’essential role” in the new organisation of Europe, not the question of who will govern France tomorrow. Chirac could have chosen to ask for a parliamentary vote he would have been certain to win. He chose the more risky but also the more democratic path of asking for approval from the citizens of France.

Chirac is facing criticisms from sectors of both the left and the right. Their objections target disparate aspects of the new-model EU that would be endowed with a unified foreign and defence policy. To placate the left, Chirac invoked a presumed need to defend France’s

‘’humanist” version of a free market. To reassure the right, he pledged no sacrifice of essential sovereignty and no accession to the EU by Turkey without approval from voters in a French referendum. The contortions suggest a reason for the public’s resistance to Chirac’s blandishments. Citizens of France have reason to suspect that what suits their ruling elites may not necessarily be best for them. — The Boston Globe