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Europe

France Considers Early Referendum On Constitution

French political leaders are considering bringing forward their referendum on the Constitution to 8 May next year and have already met to discuss this possibility.

President Jacques Chirac has previously said that the poll would be "in the second half of 2005" but according to French daily Le Monde, he met prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin last Thursday (Oct.14) to discuss bringing forward the date of the poll. Bringing the referendum forward looks attractive to Chirac for two reasons. First, he is trying not to allow the issue of the Constitution be confused with the issue of Turkey’s entry into the EU. A early referendum may prevent the 'no' camp from linking the two debates. The second reason is to do with the length of the campaign. But Chirac also has two tricky problems to weigh up in his decision. The first is that the French Constitutional Court must examine the Constitutional implications for France if the European Constitution is passed. But they can only start this work, which is expected to be long and difficult, after the official signing of the text on 29 October in Rome. The Court may not have concluded its deliberations by spring. Aside from the legal implications, there are pressing political problems for Chirac. Raffarin is expected to step down soon. A spring referendum would give him a chance to lead the campaign, but he may have already left by autumn. (EUobserver.com)

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