What if they say “no”?

This is one of these occasions in which you can safely say “I told you”. A few months ago I commented on the European constitution and how it was crazy having to vote an overall “yes” or “no” for the whole text. Well, France is voting on it in a few hours, and the latest polls seem to indicate that the outcome might well be “no”. What then? Will the European Union re-write the whole text and try another referendum in a few years?

The stupid thing about all this is that people have been asked whether they like the whole text. We had to say “yes” or “no” to the whole thing. From my conversations with people, most of us like many things of the proposed text but dislike some others. Many people, like myself, have voted “no” because they disliked a small fragment or two, not because they dislike most of it. Now, if France says “no”, somebody will have to write the whole text again and they will not have a clue about which parts the people liked and which parts caused the people to say “no”. Therefore, these guys will not have a better chance to write a successful text this time. Which is a shame. What is the cost of repeating the process? I don’t want to think that public funds are being wasted to pay people to redo something without a better chance to succeed than the first time. It’s trying at random!

It would have been so easy to do it better. Instead of a single tick for “yes” or “no”, the ballot could have presented voters with 5, 10 or 15 questions, one per big section in the text. We could have voted “yes” or “no” to each of the major parts of the proposed constitution. This way, the people behind it could have received significant feedback that could be very useful in rewriting the text if necessary. Without this, they only know that people don’t like it, but it is impossible to determine why, how or what parts.

Haven’t they thought of this approach? It’s not that hard. It only requires a bit of an engineering approach to things!

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