[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February, 2005, 16:07 GMT
Madrid voters differ over charter
By Elinor Shields
BBC News, Madrid

A polling station in Salamanca, Madrid
Voting in Salamanca has been steady, but not brisk
It is a bright, crisp day in the chic Salamanca district of Madrid, and a small but steady stream of residents are strolling to the polls.

Elderly men in hats accompany women in fur coats to the first of a series of referendums that will decide the fate of the European Union charter.

At an elegant brick school, ballots are cast into a big, clear box.

A few young families with small children in smart navy coats add some merriment to a brisk but solemn process.

For many of those who have turned out to vote, the charter matters.

But they see very different things in the treaty - and in the signal that their vote sends.

Strong views

For Guinean immigrant Saico Umaru Balde, 48, the EU is "the future - above all for minorities".

Professor Pedro Schwartz
Pedro Schwartz: "It's the wrong time for a constitution"

Sofia Martinez, 27, is also voting "Yes" to "create a closer union".

But for Madrid university professor Pedro Schwartz, the treaty is "bureaucrats run amok".

"Like most Spaniards, I'm pro-European - but it's the wrong time for a constitution.

"I know that because I'm about the only one in Spain to have read it," he adds.

A civil servant is using his ballot to register his objections to Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"It is a vote against socialism - nothing more," he says.

'Too soon'

Another way to register opposition to Mr Zapatero is abstaining.


The Spanish leader has urged people to vote, amid government fears of a low turnout.

Spaniards are likely to back the charter, but polls suggest that less than 50% will vote.

Mr Zapatero hopes to send a strong sign to Europe - and fend off criticism from the opposition Conservatives that he called the vote too soon for effective debate on the charter.

In the Salamanca polling station, Socialist Party co-ordinator Jose Contreras, 54, thinks that turnout so far is below normal for elections.

But he predicts numbers will pick up as people drop in on their way from church to lunch - and younger voters get out of bed.

Jesus Ran Gonzalez is more sceptical.

The taxi driver will be casting his vote later in the day, but he doubts many will follow his example.

"They don't know about the charter," the 40-year-old says.

"It's too soon."

What a yes vote would mean for Europe


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific