Macron proposes modifying the Constitution and expanding the use of referendum | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.


He needs to “rethink the territorial organization” of France and open “a brand new stage of decentralization

Macron, in the act of this mi
Macron, at this Wednesday’s eventYoan ValatAFP

The French president, Emmanuel Macronproposed this Wednesday a reform of the current Constitution, which, when it was approved in 1958, inaugurated the Fifth Republic and is now celebrating its 65th anniversary. Since then it has not been touched, but in a speech to commemorate this date, Macron has proposed a modification of the text to be able to expand the use of the referendum, simplify the processes to carry out the popular consultation, and has also opened the door to a certain decentralization that of more capacity for action to the territories.

“I consider that the Constitution deserves to be reviewed when crucial, considering two main imperatives: to be constant and coherent,” said Macron, who recalled that the modification of the constitutional text should not respond to “a shock of emotion, to answer a style”, but to “concrete wants”. This is why, Macron recalled, it has not been modified until now.

The president has given his speech at the headquarters of the Constitutional Council, a body created in 1958 to ensure the Magna Carta. What he proposes is to touch article 11, to expand the use of the referendum “in points which are vital for the nation.” Macron’s speech comes at a particular moment. The Government, which does not have a majority in Parliament, is about to present its Immigration Law, which at the moment does not have support in the seats. The right-wing and extreme right-wing parties had proposed that this issue could be submitted to consultation.

A few weeks ago, the president met all the opposition parties in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, to try to join forces and raised the possibility of resorting to a referendum on issues that are sensitive for the French. In recent months, the president has been widely criticized for having approved his controversial pension reform through article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows a text to be carried out without a parliamentary vote. Almost the entire country opposed the reform and was accused of mocking democracy and not taking citizens into account.

With this idea of ​​​​expanding consultations on key topics, try to change this image. Macron has also proposed simplifying the process to convene a referendum of shared initiative (RIP, in its acronym in French), which allows organizing a popular consultation on a proposed law. The problem is that the process is very complex, since it requires parliamentary support, then the collection of signatures from at least 10% of the voters, and then it must go through the chambers again.

This procedure, which was introduced in 2008, is so cumbersome that one has never been held. The last attempt was in spring, when Macron approved the pension reform. Then, the left-wing parties presented a referendum initiative to the Constitutional Council, but it did not approve it.

“More participatory” democracy

With its proposal to make this tool more flexible, Macron seeks “a extra deliberative democracy that improves participation,” but he has warned: “I don’t consider {that a} referendum ought to be held on what Parliament has already determined,” because “a parallel system” of decision-making would be created. He has warned that “all confusion should be averted and the kind of consultant democracy preserved,” because, if not, the Republic “would weaken and lose its power.”

The French president has also been in favor of giving more freedom to the territories and that “the specificities and singularities” of some of them be included in the Magna Carta. He is referring to New Caledonia, which already has special status, and to the island of Corsica, where he visited last week. There, he opened the door to giving a statute of autonomy and incorporating it into the Constitution.

“Our whole territorial structure must be rethought,” said Macron, who has shown himself open to exploring “a brand new state of decentralization.”

Macron has also reiterated his desire to include in the Constitution the freedom of women to resort to voluntary termination of pregnancy as well as the protection of the environment.

The current Constitution opened the door to the Fifth Republic. It was approved on October 4, 1958, after having been voted in a referendum by 82% of French people. Establishes that France is a “Indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic.” It is, Macron recalled, a text “inheritor to the French Revolution”, which “permits regeneration, renewal and revolution.”