Emmanuel Macron, as with every “political crisis”, has pulled an innovation out of his hat. To get out of a “moment that [the president] deems unprecedented”, Olivier Véran announced that the head of state’s “major political initiative” could lead to “preferundum”. Like the “Great Debate” after the yellow vests crisis, the government did not particularly specify the contours of this innovation. “It is a concept that would allow us to test several subjects at the same time during the same vote. You can ask multiple questions to the French. I’m not saying that’s what’s on the table, but no door is closed,” said government spokesman Olivier Véran.

This presidential exegesis could be clarified after the meeting, this Wednesday at the education house of the Legion of Honor, between the party leaders and Emmanuel Macron. However, it faces several obstacles. First, the subjects that can be submitted to referendum are framed by article 11 of the Constitution: “The President of the Republic […] may submit to referendum any bill relating to the organization of public powers , on reforms relating to the economic, social or environmental policy of the nation and to the public services which contribute to it, or tending to authorize the ratification of a treaty which, without being contrary to the Constitution, would have an impact on the functioning of the institution”.

“The left would demand a referendum on pension reform. The right and the RN on immigration, an area which is not provided for by article 11”, subodores Benjamin Morel, lecturer in public law at the University of Paris Panthéon-Assas. “Furthermore, the practical organization of a multiplicity of referendums, one ballot box per vote, would make this option difficult,” he adds. Especially since the Constitution provides for a vote by referendum on a bill presented beforehand. “The government must therefore propose a vote on a text that the French approve or reject”, certifies Benjamin Morel.

The government could also propose to the French to decide on subjects with varied answers: “insufficient”, “to reject”, “very good” or even “excellent”. A method defended and proposed by the citizen collective “better vote”, highlighting the “majority judgment”. Emmanuel Macron, to relaunch his second five-year term, could then innovate by proposing a political consultation, as for the Great Debate or that on national identity under Nicolas Sarkozy.

But this would be “without legal value. If the question of immigration is raised, for example, and a majority of French people wish to restrict it, the government could create a bill which would be debated and then voted on in Parliament, ”notes Benjamin Morel. Which would ultimately amount to Emmanuel Macron positioning himself on debates. While by offering ‘preferendums’, he tries to place himself above the fray. It remains to be seen whether this “political coup” will not be a blow in the water.