Barely born, already buried. The proposal for a "preferendum" was swept aside on Wednesday by the Head of State in front of party leaders, meeting until late at night in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis). During his "major political initiative", Emmanuel Macron even said he was "surprised" by the intervention of government spokesperson Olivier Véran, who had taken the idea out of his hat on Monday, on the plateau of France. 2. The Minister Delegate in charge of Democratic Renewal had indeed defended a “concept which would make it possible to test several subjects at the same time during the same vote”, taken up later by his colleague from the Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu.
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Visibly unconvinced, the president rather referred to "work" on the scope of article 11 of the Constitution which governs referendums - limited to questions of organization of public powers and reforms relating to economic, social and environmental issues. A request already made by Les Républicains and the Rassemblement national, who are calling for the organization of a referendum on immigration so far prevented by the provision. Asked about the subject at the end of the evening, the head of state was neither hostile nor inclined to the proposal of the right and the nationalists. On the other hand, he dismissed that of Nupes from a national consultation on pension reform. The president's approach could in any case be part of "a major conference" on the institutions negotiated on Wednesday evening, as confirmed by the boss of the Modem, François Bayrou, present in Saint-Denis.
Behind closed doors at the Legion of Honor boarding school, where the meeting was taking place, Emmanuel Macron did not specify the areas to which he would like to expand the scope of the referendum. The latter could however choose to extend it to “societal issues”, the only missing link for the lecturer in public law, Anne-Charlène Bezzina. “It would be all the developments related to mores or family life which were until now considered too divisive to be subject to popular anointing”, she explains. This would also include issues related to immigration, which she said were “society issues”.
In his interview with Le Point, at the beginning of August, the President of the Republic had already put forward the hypothesis of several “referendum projects” which could see the light of day at the end of these “Meetings of Saint-Denis”. Several ministers would push in particular for the organization of national consultations on the end of life or even the legalization of cannabis. Way to capture the attention of the French while ensuring a large rate of participation. “Emmanuel Macron is looking for ways to circumvent his relative majority. Which goes for example by the organization of a referendum on something a priori consensual”, analyzes the constitutionalist Bertrand Mathieu.
The fact remains that if he wishes to modify article 11, Emmanuel Macron will have to start a “relatively long and complex procedure”, continues the lawyer. Like any constitutional revision, it could in a first case use the classic procedure of article 89. The proposal would then be submitted to a vote in the National Assembly then in the Senate by simple majority, followed by a vote in Congress - that is to say the two chambers united at Versailles - by a majority of 3/5. In a second case, the Head of State could put it to the vote of the two Assemblies by simple majority, before calling a referendum this time.
"In both cases, Emmanuel Macron will have to find a political agreement at a time when no one is making a gift," recalls Bertrand Mathieu. During the battle for private schools in 1984, François Mitterrand had thus tried the path of “a referendum on the referendum” before encountering the prior refusal of the Senate. “It would be hard to see senators or deputies today saying that they want to keep the monopoly of democracy”, nuance the constitutionalist Anne-Charlène Bezzina.
Another option, used by De Gaulle in 1962 and 1969, would be to resort directly to a referendum without going through Parliament, as Article 11 precisely provides. this unconstitutional procedure, since article 89 is precisely dedicated to constitutional revisions”, explains Bertrand Mathieu.