Alsatians reject a proposal to establish a new Council of Alsace

Department of Haut-Rhin says "no" to the plan, while "yes" wins in Bas-Rhin though required threshold is not cleared · Turnout below 40% in both departments · Had voters backed the proposal, Alsace could have taken on some powers from Paris

A proposal by the Regional Council of Alsace and the departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin to merge those three administrative structures into a new, more autonomous Council of Alsace has been rejected today in referendum.

Almost final vote counting released by France Info shows "yes" has won in the departament of Bas-Rhin with 66.9% of the votes, but "no" has won in Haut-Rhin, with 54.8% of the votes. So that the merger was done, it was required that both departments voted in favor. It was also needed that "yes" votes were at least 25% of all the people allowed to vote. Not even this has been reached in Bas-Rhin, albeit by a narrow margin.

Turnout in Bas-Rhin has reached 37.5%, and 39.2% in Haut-Rhin. This means that 24.2% of all potential voters in Bas-Rhin and 17.2% in Haut-Rhin have supported the move. Being the required threshold at 25%, the proposal has come close to passage in the former department, but far in the latter.

The project was supported by centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP, French acronym), centre-left green Europe Ecology and Alsatian autonomist Unser Land.The UMP -the ruling party in Alsace- said that the establishment of the Council of Alsace would help in simplifying Alsace's administrative structures and in saving money. Besides, proponents of the "yes" vote said that Alsace could get new political powers from Paris.

Both rightist National Front (FN) and Left Front opposed the move, arguing that it was not in the interest of the Alsatian people and that it would weaken the French Republic. The Socialist Party was divided.

Had the voters supported the proposal, a law on the Council of Alsace would have been drafted by the French National Assembly. The law should have detailed the way the new Council would have been organized, and it would have also explained which powers could have been transferred from Paris to Strasbourg.