Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Wayampi-Wallisian-Parisian Alliance... for the “Yes”!

In the run-up to the French referendum, "euro-skeptical" commentators worried that French authorities would try to fiddle the vote. They remembered in particular how in the 1992 vote on the Maastricht Treaty, the 70% “yes” vote from France’s overseas dominions and territories (or “Dom-Tom”) helped to carry the day, and they expected that, for instance, the Wayampi tribespeople of French Guiana [hat tips to Eursoc and EU Referendum blog] would be called upon to do their part again. Well, it seems like they might indeed have been. According to the official Ministry of Interior statistics, the commune of Camopi in French Guiana - the heart of the Wayampi area of settlement (see here, for instance) - brought in a total of some 312 votes for the “yes” as against a mere 17 for the “no”. In percentages, that’s 95% for the “yes” as against 5% for the “no” – a split that in places like Ukraine, for instance, would have the OSCE making a prima facie case for electoral fraud, but in far off Amazonian territories administered under neo-colonial conditions is apparently not cause for concern. The pacific Islands of Wallis and Futuna, with their French-appointed “High Administrator” and “three traditional kings with limited powers”, also came through splendidly, turning out a 90% “yes” vote.

But it is not only the Wayampi, Wallisians, and Futunans who are known to be convinced Europeans – but also, of course, France’s urban elites in places like Paris. In a detail the significance of which was little noticed outside of France, Paris and Lyon, France’s two largest cities, were permitted to keep their polling stations open until 10 PM Sunday night, two hours later than the rest of continental France. Predictably, both municipalities voted overwhelming for the “yes”: 66%-34% in Paris and 61%-39% in Lyon. Not exactly Camopi, but not bad nonetheless. Predictably as well, in light of the extra two hours that their residents were given, they had unusually low abstention rates: a mere 25% in Paris and 28% in Lyon, as compared to 30% nationwide. On my rough calculation, made by assuming that the national rate of participation applied also to Paris and Lyon, this little subterfuge resulted in a swing of some 20,000 votes to the “yes” column (i.e. the extra two hours brought in some 40,000 additional votes for the “yes” and some 20,000 additional votes for the “no”).