The French president, Emmanuel Macronproposed this Wednesday a reform of the current Constitution, which, when 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 believe that the Constitution deserves to be reviewed when necessary, taking into account two major imperatives: to be consistent and coherent,” said Macron, who recalled that the modification of the constitutional text should not respond to “a shock of emotion, to respond to a fashion”, but to “concrete needs”. 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 aspects that are important 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 passed without a parliamentary vote. Almost the entire country opposed the reform and was accused of flouting 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 shared initiative referendum (RIP, in its French acronym), 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.