by Frank Schnittger
Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 10:04:01 AM EST
[Final Update by Frank at 17.30] The Lisbon Treaty has been rejected by Irish voters. A total of 53.4 per cent voted to reject the treaty, while 46.6 per cent voted in favour. All but seven constituencies rejected the treaty, with a total of 752,451 voting in favour of Lisbon and 862,415 votes against. Turnout was 53.1 per cent. The people have spoken - well er, 1.6 Million out of 400 Million.
Update [2008-6-13 10:4:1 by Colman]: Well, that's a no then.
Today is D-Day for the Lisbon Treaty - at least as far as popular endorsement is concerned - although it should be noted that many other countries have yet to ratify it. Early voting has been brisk with turnouts of up to 25% reported in some constituencies by mid afternoon. This should be good news for the YES campaign as a low turnout was generally feared to be the chief danger to a YES vote win.
By way of comparison, the Nice referendum was first defeated in 2001 in a referendum with 35% turnout, and passed (with very minor amendment) a year later with a 50% turnout. However the NO side have run quite a high profile campaign this time around, and were generally regarded as the more motivated campaigners. So it would be unwise to draw the simple conclusion that a higher turnout automatically means that the YES vote will carry the day.
I will try to post more information on voting and results here as they become available - although I will be away for a few hours this evening. Perhaps other inveterate poll watchers can pick up the slack! Vote counting is entirely manual in Ireland (following a comical attempt to introduce computerised voting) and counting will not begin until tomorrow morning. The counting usually takes all day, but trends should be apparent by mid-morning tomorrow if previous referendums are any guide.
Update [2008-6-12 17:58:38 by Colman]: Well, the reporting is pretty awful, but it looks like turnout was 40-50%, expected to be in the mid 40s. That should be positive for the Yes side, on previous experience, but previous experience doesn't go far with referendums ...
UPDATE at 2.10 AM by Frank. Paddy Power pays out early on a YES victory - see comment below
UPDATE at 10.45 AM by Frank. Early tally returns - based on very small samples - suggest a significant NO vote - possibly by as much as 60:40. This cannot be blamed on apathy or a low turnout. It marks a sea change in Irish politics as far as the EU is concerned.
Promoted by Colman
Turnouts in Irish referendum vary very widely depending on how important or controversial the issue: Referenda on abortion and divorce attracted over 60% to the polls in the 1990'a whilst the Maastricht, Amsterdam, and Good Friday (Belfast) Agreements and a recent referendum on Citizenship attracted turnout in the high 50s. However less controversial or technical amendments sometimes attract a turnout as low as 30%.
I would expect the tightness of the vote, and the belated mobilisation of the mainstream parties to result in a c. 50% turnout this time around, but you never know. Many people felt that the complex and opaque nature of the Lisbon Treaty made it very difficult to understand, and may vote NO or abstain in protest for that reason alone. Constitutions should be relatively simple, intelligible, even stirring documents, and the sort of fudging that went into Lisbon is wholly inappropriate in that context. This has allowed the NO campaign to make all sorts of ludicrous claims as to what passing the Treaty would entail, and the YES campaign has consequently been on the defensive throughout.
A recent High Court decision made it illegal for the Government to commit public funds to promoting any referendum which means that political patties were using their own resources to fight the campaign - funds they would far rather use to fund their own election campaigns! However the "equal time and space" approach adopted by the media meant that all sorts of relatively obscure NO campaign groups achieved a prominence they would otherwise never achieve.
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Declan Ganly of Libertas interviewed in the media or quoted in the Press. As his sole claim to fame is his wealth derived from largely Eastern European and US entrepreneurial activities and as neither he, nor his organisation has never stood in an Irish election, it seems to me that giving him a media prominence on a par with a major party leader seems wholly inappropriate. He has never been a member of the EU Parliament or any EU institution, and yet his largely speculative views have been given parity with those who have a great deal of experience of how those institutions actually work.
Thus if this referendum is actually passed, it will have more to do with the nature of the opposition. Many people may not wish to associate themselves with Sinn Fein, Libertas, Coir (a nebulous organisation made up of social conservatives who have previously opposed Divorce etc, in Ireland) and a plethora of small political parties and Union Leaders who have generally opposed all referenda on the EU.
This is not a good omen for Democracy within the EU. Proposals should be debated and passed on their merits and not based on who is for and against. I hope we never again see a referendum in Ireland on such a poorly drafted document. It's time we had a real EU Constitution which actually articulates what the EU is about.
I will update the comments below with results as they emerge.