ALMOST 80 percent of readers who took part in the Bulletin's mini referendum on the European constitution voted No.
Bulletin readers had been asked to cast their votes either by fax, telephone or email over the weekend. The result makes bad reading for Prime Minister Tony Blair who hopes to overcome plenty of eurosceptic sentiment in Britain to get a Yes vote in Britain's referendum next year.
The majority of votes were cast by email and were mostly from Bulletin readers in Britain who read the paper online. The Bulletin decided to organise its own poll after the Spanish government snubbed non-Spanish European expatriates by not allowing them the vote. The move has been criticised especially as there are close to one million European Union expatriates living in Spain at the moment.
The Spanish government said that only the Spanish people should be able to decide on issues of foreign policy. Non-Spaniards can vote, though, in the European and local elections in Spain.
The Spanish, however, gave an over whelming yes to the European Union's new constitution in a referendum on Sunday, but a low turnout may have dented EU hopes the vote would send a strong signal across the 25-nation bloc.
Supporters of the charter had hoped europhile Spain, the first member state to submit the constitution to a referendum, would set an example for waverers such as Britain and France.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he took heart from the turnout. I feel very satisfied that 14 million Spaniards went to vote ... The support we have obtained in today's referendum in favour of the European constitution makes Spain stronger in Europe and it makes Europe stronger, he said.
Voters approved the constitution by 77 percent to 17 percent, official results showed with virtually all votes counted. About 6 percent of votes cast were blank.
Turnout was 42.3 percent, less even than the 45.9 percent turnout in elections to the European Parliament in June. The opposition Popular Party, which also campaigned for a Yes, said the low turnout was a failure for Zapatero who staked his reputation on making Spaniards the first to approve the document.
Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy mocked the government's ambition to set an example for Europe.
In the end, we're not going to be a model of anything, he said.
K Unlike eurosceptic publics in
Spanish are friendly to the EU thanks to an economic boom associated with 86 billion euros
($112 billion) of subsidies Gaspar Llamazares, head of the United Left party which campaigned against a treaty it felt did not do enough for social welfare, said the high abstention rate showed that most Spanish citizens do not feel concerned by the proposed treaty.
The European Union congratulated Spain. The Spanish have said yes to Europe, yes to the future, Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EU's executive Commission, said in a statement. In opening the way with this positive and unambiguous vote, the Spanish people have sent a strong signal to their fellow citizens who will give their view on the constitution in the coming months. France's President Jacques Chirac said the Yes vote set the tone for the referendums in other countries. Political analyst Juan Diez said turnout was low although not scandalously low.
He saw the result having little impact on other countries. Zapatero focused his campaign on the economic benefits EU membership has brought Spain since 1986.
Unlike eurosceptic publics in Britain and Denmark, the Spanish are friendly to the EU thanks to an economic boom associated with 86 billion euros ($112 billion) of subsidies over the past 19 years.
The opposition criticised Zapatero for rushing Spaniards to the polls and failing to explain the contents of the charter sufficiently. Polls showed widespread ignorance of the charter.
With both the ruling Socialists and the conservative Popular Party backing a Yes vote, the campaign failed to catch fire. A muted No campaign came from regional parties demanding greater home rule and a left-wing group that wants more welfare commitments.
A third of voters opted for no in the Basque Country and 28 percent did so in Catalonia, results showed.
Nearly 35 million voters were eligible to answer the question: Do you approve the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe? The charter needs ratification by all 25 EU members to take effect.
The Spanish referendum is not legally binding.
Parliament still needs to ratify it, although Zapatero said he would respect public opinion.
In the Balearics turn-out for the referendum, was just below the 35 percent mark, one of the lowest in the country.