Spanish European Constitution referendum, 2005


Spanish European Constitution referendum, 2005

The Spanish referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is a consultative referendum that was held on 20 February 2005 to decide whether Spain should ratify the proposed Constitution of the European Union.

The result was a landslide victory for the "Yes" campaign, with 77% of voters in favour. Turnout, however, was only 42% of the electorate—by far the lowest in any election since the restoration of democracy in the 1970s.

The question put to voters was:

¿Aprueba usted el Tratado por el que se establece una Constitución para Europa?
Do you approve the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe?

The referendum was not legally binding on the government, but paved the way for parliamentary ratification of the constitutional treaty, which happened in the Congress of Deputies on 28 April 2005, with a result of 319 "Yes" against 19 "No", and in the Upper Chamber on 18 May 2005 with a result of 225 "Yes" against 6 "No" and one abstention.

Campaign

Both the governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and the main opposition People's Party (PP) campaigned for a "Yes" vote. They were joined by the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ–PNV) and the Catalan nationalist Convergence and Unity (CiU). Among the parties campaigning for a "No" vote were United Left (IU), the Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG, Galician National Block), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), the social democratic Aragonese Council (CHA), the Basque nationalist social democratic Eusko Alkartasuna, and the Trade Unions Confederación Intersindical Galega (CIG) and CGT.

Amidst widespread apathy surrounding the constitutional treaty, and ignorance of its contents (in a government poll, 90 % of voters admitted to having little or no knowledge of its provisions), the government hired celebrities to read excerpts from the text in daily television broadcasts, and five million copies (without annexes) were sent out with Sunday papers. While many felt that the result of the referendum was a foregone conclusion, it was feared that turnout could be as low as 40 to 50 % of the electorate. This turned out to be the case.

In late January 2005, several bodies campaigning for a "No" vote complained to Spain's independent National Electoral Commission about the government's planned information campaign:

*On 14 January, ERC demanded that the National Electoral Commission should block what it saw as unfair promotion of the treaty by the government.
*On 19 January, the Tomás Moro Centre for Juridical Studies (CJSTM) and Another Democracy is Possible complained to the National Electoral Commission about what they saw as the unfair nature of the government’s campaign.

In response to these complaints, the Commission ruled that the government's campaign must be purely informative, and banned several of its campaign slogans:

The campaign to be carried out by the Government as part of the present referendum process must inform objectively on the contents of the Treaty… All value judgements and slogans previously used in TV, on websites and other media, e.g. 'We are first with Europe', and statements that could, direct or indirectly, influence the position or attitude of the citizens, must be removed.

There were also reports of censorship in the government's online forum on the Constitution.Fact|date=February 2007 According to Another Democracy is Possible, the website also infringes Spanish law related to government information, and could be defined as "illicit publicity".Fact|date=February 2007

Results

The result of the referendum was a landslide victory for the "Yes" campaign. At only 42 %, turnout was the lowest in any election since the restoration of democracy in 1977. This was seen by commentators as an embarrassment for the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

External links

* [http://www.europarl.es/constitucion_2004/resultados_electorales/default.html Election results] (in Spanish)
* [http://www.constitucioneuropea.es/ Government's European Constitution site] (in Spanish)
* [http://www.constitucioneuropea.es/foro Government's online forum] (in Spanish)
* The [http://www.democracy-international.org/fileadmin/pdf/monitoring/di-spain.pdf monitoring report (1,2 MB pdf 18 p.)] evaluates the fairness of the process in Spain using [http://www.iri-europe.net/files/260105/IRI-ReferendumMonitor.pdf internationally recognized standards (p.4 250 KB pdf 20p.)] for a referendum. More info: [http://www.democracy-international.org/98.html in English] , [http://www.masdemocracia.org/ in Spanish]
* News coverage:
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4280531.stm BBC: Spain's hard sell to win EU Yes]
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4281879.stm BBC: Madrid voters differ over charter]
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4280841.stm BBC: Spain voters approve EU charter]
** [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/02/20/spain.eu/index.html CNN: Spain voters back EU constitution]
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4284607.stm BBC: Spain's mixed EU signals]
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4285901.stm BBC: Spain gives uncertain lead to EU]
** [http://www.eubusiness.com/afp/050220114411.9vwkcuna EUbusiness: Zapatero calls for stronger Europe as Spaniards kick off EU votes]
** [http://www.eubusiness.com/afp/050220192414.1ulul9bp EUbusiness: Spain says resounding yes to European constitution]
** [http://news.ft.com/cms/s/c95c2dda-853f-11d9-a172-00000e2511c8.html Financial Times: Lessons from Spain's rushed poll]


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