Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Not on the constitution but on the campaign for the referendum

A while ago I had written a post on the surprisingly democratic campaign for the French referendum about the EU Constitution. Well, weeks have gone by, the No became threatening, and suddenly the campaign is not so ethical any more. There are 3 big problems.

First, when the official campaign started the media started to invite mainly represents of political parties. On TV we don't see much any more, representents of the civil society which gave a real edge in favour of the No over the professional politicians in favour of the Yes. Since the socialist party is officially in favour of the constitution, the members of the party who are against it (like Fabius), are less heard or shown in the media. These days, on TV, the No is defended by the Communists, the Trotskists, Le Pen and De Villiers (who is often called "Le Pen-light: for those who are not quite racist enough to vote for the real thing). Who's wondering why the No is not as strong as it was a few weeks ago ?

The second thing is that the media have started their own campaign and since, in a very large majority, they are in favour of the constitution, it's starting to look like good old fashion Maastricht treaty referendum propaganda. Commentators, journalists, analysts, all tell us how great the constitution is. Last week on the Internet page of the newspaper Le Monde, there was a poll which showed that 72 % of the participants believed that the media are pro-constitution. The proponents of the No have asked the constitutional council and now the Conseil d’Etat to intervene to guaranty the equal chances of the 2 sides. The former didn’t do anything about it and the later didn’t take its decision yet. Yesterday Mélanchon, one of the Socialists against the constitution, said that if this unequal campaign took place in Africa everyone would be calling for international observers to check that basic democratic rules are respected.

Fortunately, the third and last problem is slightly comical. During the whole campaign pro-Yes (or contra-No) have been saying how irresponsible it would be to vote No and that, all in all, it wouldn't be a rational thing to do. My feeling is that this argument makes people feel like voting No (almost as much as the argument "every thing in this constitution is perfect" ). When they realized that it wasn’t working so well, the UMP and the Socialists, or the media, asked people with wide moral authority to sing the same song hoping they would be more convincing. That’s how Jacques Delors, Simone Weil, Lionel Jospin all made their comeback (they are all people that the less charismatic leaders of their parties don’t wish to see back in the political life fulltime) and now the good Jürgen Habermas. This is starting to work, but the ultimate touch is voting in the name of the dead. Not any dead of course. The dead that make you want to vote like them: De Gaulle and Mitterrand. Some people who think they are invested with the mystical power to speak in the name of the dead, tell us that these fathers of the Nation would have voted Yes. Charming! The problem in the case of Mitterrand is that his widow is saying that in fact he would have never accepted this constitution.

When we start having debates about how a corrupt ex-president, who died a few years ago will be voting in his tomb on May 29th, we can draw 2 conclusions: 1/ proxy voting has sure improved over the past years, 2/ we’re not discussing the real issues any more.


Srdjan Cvijic said...

This is not to criticize the powerful annalyzis of Raphael, in general, however, I wanted to notice that to say that Mitterand's wife has the authority to say what would her husband's position on the Constitution be, is also a kind of proxy voting. She is also a quasi-political figure of her own sort and this probably makes her interpretation less can not criticize other people because they invoke the dead (but these are not just ordinary dead but political symbols)and then say that others interpret it differently...A more general critique of your critique of the campaign for the referendum (but this is devil's advocacy mind you) is that the end justifies the means.

Raphaël Paour said...

You are right. In fact, it's just as ridiculous when she speaks in his name as when Roland Dumas or someone else does it. I'm just saying that it's funny because usually people who speak for the dead get away with it. The fact that she gives a different opinion only raises doubts for all to see about that type of assertion.

Srdjan Cvijic said...

As far as speaking about the dead...just consider any definition of the national identity, French, Italian, Serbian, Scottish, US, that is speaking about the dead par exellence