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France set for government shakeup


• French territories begin EU voting
• Dutch PM: Vote on treaty not me
• Giscard in last-ditch 'Yes' appeal
• Chirac urges 'Yes' to EU charter
• Barroso: 'No' vote failure for EU
• Leaders bid to save EU charter
• Overview: Time of change
• Timeline: WWII to present
• Map: EU membership
Following France's "No" vote, should the new EU constitution be:
Put to a second vote
* Permanent EU president to replace six-month rotating presidencies

* EU foreign minister to conduct common foreign policy

* Qualified majority voting in most areas with vetoes limited

* Commission to be reduced to 15 with 10 non-voting associates

* Policy areas covered by European Parliament up from 34 to 70

* Legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights
Jacques Chirac
Jean-Pierre Raffarin

PARIS, France (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac appeared set to replace his prime minister after voters soundly rejected a proposed constitution for the European Union.

Chirac will make an announcement about his government and address the nation on Tuesday, his Elysee Palace office said.

The president met with beleaguered Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin for 30 minutes at the palace Monday morning.

An aide to Raffarin said the prime minister was expected to present his resignation to Chirac later Monday, The Associated Press reported.

Aides to Raffarin were seen packing up boxes as their boss met with Chirac, AP said.

After the meeting, Raffarin said "there will be developments today or tomorrow."

He refused to say whether he had offered his resignation, telling reporters only: "I'm going for a stroll around Paris. See you later."

On Sunday night, Chirac dropped what has been described as his heaviest hint so far that he planned to remove Raffarin.

"I intend to respond ... by giving a new and strong impetus to the action of the government," Chirac said in a televised address soon after the result was announced.

He said French voters had made their "sovereign decision, and I note it."

With votes counted in all of France and its overseas territories, the "No" camp had 54.87 percent, with only 45.13 percent voting "Yes," according to figures released by France's Interior Ministry.

The defeat represents a humiliating one for Chirac, whose country -- a founding member of the European Union -- is the first to reject its charter. Chirac had campaigned heavily for a "Yes" vote.

He becomes the second French leader, after Gen. Charles de Gaulle, to lose a referendum since the founding of the French Fifth Republic in 1958.

"The French people have given a huge smack in the face to an entire system that has the nerve to tell us what to think," said leading "No" campaigner Philippe de Villiers. "The constitution is no more."

De Villiers and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen called on Chirac to resign, even though the French leader had said he would not quit.

Chirac said that he intended to meet with EU leaders in Brussels on June 16 and "defend the position of our country." He added: "France will continue to maintain its full positions respecting its commitments, and I will assure that."

There are essentially three potential candidates to replace Raffarin, CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley said: Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, and Nicholas Sarkozy, chairman of Chirac's ruling UMP party.

"De Villepin is well known across the world as the French foreign minister at the time of the dispute over the war in Iraq," Oakley said. "Alliot-Marie is perhaps the outsider of the three candidates.

"Sarkozy, formerly finance minister, formerly interior minister, is a potential rival to Mr. Chirac for the presidential nomination for the conservative side in the elections due in 2007.

"Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Chirac don't get on at all, but Mr. Sarkozy is one of the most popular politicians in France, he's got a reputation as a go-getter, a man who gets on with the job."

Chirac also met with Sarkozy on Monday, and held a 90-minute session with de Villepin on Friday -- a meeting seen in Paris as a clear sign he was to be named prime minister, Reuters reported.

Chirac's decision to give the public a referendum on the issue was a risky one; had he sent the issue straight to parliament, approval was more likely, CNN's Oakley said.

Instead, the French "No" vote throws a wrench into plans for closer European integration.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said leaders "need to do more to explain the true dimension of what is at stake, and the nature of the solutions which only Europe can bring."

"There will be time for that debate, of course, but I think one thing is sure: we should, together, try to put Europe back on track again," Barroso said.

Several European countries said they would proceed with their own referendums on the EU constitution despite France's rejection.

Polls in the Netherlands, which holds its own referendum on the constitution on Wednesday, suggest the "No" camp there is leading by 60-40 percent, and the momentum is likely to gain with the defeat in France, Oakley said.

But British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the EU needed time to reflect on the French result and that it was too soon to say if Britain would press ahead with a referendum.

"What is important now is to have time for reflection, with the Dutch referendum in a couple of days' time and the European Council in the middle of June, where all the leaders can discuss the implications of the vote that has taken place," he told reporters. (Full story)

Regardless of the outcome in France and the Netherlands, a European Commission spokesman said the ratification process for the constitution would go ahead.

"The procedures have been completed in nine countries representing over 220 million citizens. That is almost 49 percent of EU population. The Commission thinks this is a very important reason why the ratification procedures should go forward," Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the euro dropped against the U.S. dollar Monday after French voters rejected the European Union by a clear margin. (Full story)

A divided France

French newspapers reflected the impact of Sunday's defeat.

The conservative daily Le Figaro's front-page headline was "NON" superimposed on a map of Europe.

"Non! The Earthquake," was the headline on the front page of the economic daily La Tribune.

The campaign over the constitution divided France and became a referendum on the government's economic record as well as the future of Europe.

Backers said the constitution, which EU leaders signed last October, would strengthen Europe and France, make EU operations more efficient and let Europe speak with one voice on global issues.

Opponents worried about losing national identity and sovereignty, and the influx of cheap labor -- just as France struggles to reduce high unemployment.

Germany became the ninth country to ratify the constitution when the upper house of parliament voted Friday in favor of the treaty that embodies it.

Other countries that approved the text are Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The treaty left open the possibility for another vote to be held if at least one nation "encountered difficulties" in getting approval, The Associated Press reported.

The treaty was drawn up by a 200-person panel of parliamentarians headed by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who said countries that reject the constitution will be asked to vote again.

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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