Doing things the democratic way

The most remarkable thing about the French referendum on the European Constitution was the fact that it took place at all. A conceivable alternative would have been the French Parliament ratifying the treaty with an overwhelming majority, as was the case in Greece. But France did not choose this convenient option. By calling a referendum, it triggered dialogue, brought politics into the public eye and created the option for a «no» vote that would have been unthinkable had it been left to the French Parliament. But despite the fact that the French referendum was clearly more democratic than the Greek Parliament’s de facto approval, some critics have countered that the French were inadequately informed about the treaty, excessively concerned with domestic affairs and used their votes to express their reservations. Evidently, these commentators fail to realize how undemocratic this outlook is. Voters often do not understand issues in depth and form their opinions on the basis of general impressions rather than careful assessment. But they are still expressing a preference… France’s referendum gave its citizens a chance to think and express themselves. And their «no» gave the rest of Europe the opportunity to reflect and reassess itself…

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