An emphatic “yes” to the European Union’s new Constitution.
That is what Spain has said in a referendum, with nearly 77 percent of voters approving the charter, a mere 17 percent giving it the thumbs down.
But some 58 percent stayed away from the polls – despite the encouragement of the country’s Socialist prime minister. The low turnout must be a bitter disappointment for Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
But addressing the media, he was anything but disheartened.
“Today Spaniards have written a page of European history,” he said. “Our vote is a message addressed to our fellow citizens in Eruope who have been eagerly awaiting our response.”
Zapatero had staked his reputation on making Spaniards the first to approve the document by popular vote.
The nation joined the EU in 1986 and has done well out of membership. However, voter apathy has been linked to the non-binding nature of the referendum. The Spanish parliament still needs to ratify the Constitution although Zapatero always said he would respect public opinion.
The opposition has critized the premier, saying he failed to explain its contents sufficiently.