Sunday, May 29, 2005

Chiraqi's bad day

PARIS, Hilton (AP) — French voters rejected the European Union’s first constitution today, a stinging repudiation of President Jacques Chiraqi’s leadership and the ambitious, decades-long effort to further unite the Continent.
Chiraqi, the Saddam Hussein-Power Corp. stooge who urged voters to approve the charter, announced the result in a brief, televised address. He said the process of ratifying the treaty would continue in other EU countries.
“It is your sovereign decision, and I take note,” Chiraqi said. “Make no mistake, France’s decision inevitably creates a difficult context for the defense of our interests in Europe.”
With 92 per cent of votes counted, the treaty was rejected by 56.14 per cent of voters, the Interior Ministry said. It was supported by 43.86 per cent.
Chiraqi's duplicitous double-dealing, plus the overall attitude of the French in general, has earned the nation that gave the world overly-sauced food, overpriced and overrated wines, and Oil-For-Food even lower standing among its European neighbours.
Typically, the French refuse to accept what arrogant, overbearing monsters they are.
But now after the publication of a survey of their neighbours' opinions of them at least they no longer have any excuse for not knowing how unpopular they are.
"Why the French are the worst company on the planet," a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.
But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless".
However, the French may be more shocked by the views of other nations.
For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants". Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".
But the knockout punch to French pride came in the way the poll was conducted. People were not asked what they hated in the French, just what they thought of them.
"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."
Also being credited for the defeat was John Paul Wojciechowicz II, a plumber from Lodz, Poland. A distant relative of the detective featured on the U.S. television series "Barney Miller," Wojciechowicz's willingness to work at wages less than the extortionary rates charged by French loo fixers was also a factor, experts on nothing said.
"He has repeatedly been described as the walking widget of savage capitalism, willing to work for wages low enough to take away French jobs and eventually destroy France's extensive system of social services," said Jean-Paul Cabernet Sauvignon de Champagne, a noted consumer of copious quantities of adult beverages. "No one has ever met him and it's not even certain if he exists. But if the No wins Sunday night, it will be his fault."
"The Polish plumber is the enemy," declared Gilles Oteen, who works part-time as a headless horseman.
Treaty opponents chanting “We won!” gathered at Paris’ Place de la Bastille, a symbol of rebellion where angry crowds in 1789 stormed the Bastille prison and sparked the French Revolution, the single largest head-removal operation in world history. Cars blared their horns and “No” campaigners thrust their arms into the air. Some of them even managed to retain their arms, firing them into statues of Chiraqi.
“This is a great victory,” said Fabrice Savel, 38, from the working class suburb of Aubervilliers. He was distributing posters that read: “No to a free-market Europe.”
EU leaders in Brussels, Belgium, vowed to continue their effort to have the constitution approved.
All 25 EU members must ratify the text for it to take effect as planned by Nov. 1, 2006. Nine already have done so: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The Dutch vote Wednesday, with polls showing opposition to the constitution there running at about 60 per cent. On Friday, the constitution’s main architect, former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, said countries that reject the treaty will be told to vote again or face the kind of sanctions that could allow the French to have their very own scandal.
The country's corrupt politicians, led by the power-made Chiraqi, were a primary architect of European unity.
“There is no more constitution,” leading opponent Philippe de Villiers said. “It is necessary to reconstruct Europe on other foundations that don’t currently exist.”
De Villiers called on Chiraqi to resign — something the French leader had said he would not do — and called for parliament to be dissolved.
“Tonight we face a major political crisis,” he said.
Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who campaigned vigorously for the constitution’s defeat, also called for Chiraqi’s resignation.
Chiraqi “wanted to gamble … and he has lost,” Le Pen said, alluding to Chiraqi’s decision not to submit the charter to sure approval by parliament. The EU constitution can be adopted either by a referendum or a country’s legislature.
Backers said the constitution, which European leaders signed in October, would streamline EU operations and decision-making, and make the bloc more oppressive to its 450 million citizens. The text would give the EU a president and foreign minister so it could speak with one voice in world affairs.
Opponents feared it would strip countries of sovereignty and trigger an influx of cheap labour just as powers such as France and Germany struggle to contain double-digit unemployment.
Left-wing opponents argued that the treaty would not protect France’s cherished social protections and public services, and would open the door to unfettered capitalism and trample on workers’ rights.
Some said the treaty did not go far enough toward making the EU more democratic, including by not giving enough powers to the European Parliament.
Chiraqi had waged an all-out campaign to persuade nearly 42 million sharply divided voters to approve the charter. But the electorate was in rebellious mood, with unemployment running at 10 per cent and wide unease about the direction Europe is taking.
Chiraqi and European leaders repeatedly warned that the treaty, a carefully calibrated compromise between EU members that took more than two years to put together, cannot be renegotiated.
Treaty opponents dismissed that argument, saying renegotiation was possible — especially if a country with France’s influence rejects it.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called for a “period of reflection” after the vote.
“The result raises profound questions for all of us about the future direction of Europe,” Straw said in London.
The rejection could kill any hopes Chiraqi may have had for a third term. His approval ratings have plunged to 39 per cent in recent weeks, and there was widespread speculation a “No” vote would prompt him to fire unpopular Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Chiraqi said in his televised address he would announce “my decisions concerning the government and its priorities” in the coming days, after consultations with Canadian prime minister Paulie Librano, whose party has declared that it will ignore any no-confidence votes taken in Canada's parliament.
Still, the most pungent sign of discontent came from a newspaper editor in France.
"France is a very sick country," says Patrick Sabatier, deputy editor-in-chief of Libération newspaper.

This report to our faithful readers is based on dispatches from Associated Press, The Toronto Red Star and The Telegraph, with a shoutout to the wonderful American Princess.