The New People's Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) presented, on Wednesday, September 21, to the Assembly a bill to tax the superprofits of large companies and to try to obtain a referendum of shared initiative on the subject. A complex procedure, which has never succeeded to date.
How does RIP work?
The shared initiative referendum, or RIP, was introduced during the 2008 parliamentary revision, but the organic law that allows its application only came into force in 2015. Previously, only the President of the Republic, on proposal of the government or of the two assemblies, could organize a referendum.
Now thearticle 11 of the Constitution indicates that this electoral consultation can be launched by "a fifth of the members of Parliament, supported by a tenth of the voters registered on the electoral lists"or at least 185 deputies or senators, out of a total of 925. In this case, the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, specified that the text on the superprofits had been supported by 240 parliamentarians.
What are the next steps ?
In the month following its filing, the Constitutional Council had to examine the referendum proposal and possibly validate it, which it did on Thursday, May 9 concerning ADP. He had to check:
- that the subject of the referendum is indeed one of the subjects provided for by the Constitution: it must concern "the organization of public powers, on reforms relating to the economic or social policy of the nation and to the public services which contribute thereto, or tending to authorize the ratification of a treaty" ;
- that he doesn't have “for the purpose of repealing a legislative provision promulgated less than one year ago”. The RIP cannot be used to undo what Parliament has just voted. This being so, to judge the validity of an RIP request, it is indeed the date of registration of the referendum initiative which must be taken into account, according to decision no. 2013-681 DC of December 5, 2013 of the Constitutional Council. It was therefore necessary to verify that the proposal against the privatization of ADP did not infringe this rule. For now, the law has been solemnly passed but has not been promulgated.
Then, it will be necessary to collect the support of a tenth of the voters, within nine months. Whereas INSEE had 48.8 million registered voters in March 2022, this means that it will be necessary to collect nearly 5 million signatories. To be admissible, each supporter must fill out a form in which he states his identity, his address and the number of his identity card. The collection can be done via a website of the interior ministry or by going to at least one " access point " which will be in each canton in the territory.
Even if all the signatures of parliamentarians and citizens are collected, the President of the Republic is required to call the referendum, but on one condition: that no text on the same subject has been examined by the National Assembly, nor the Senate within six months.
What are the precedents?
The referendum mechanism has only been triggered once since its introduction in 2015. A RIP proposal was launched in 2019 against the privatization of Aéroports de Paris. After nine months of collection, she had obtained only 1.1 million citizen signatures, far from the threshold necessary to trigger a referendum. However, the privatization project has been postponed to an indefinite datenot because of this procedure but because of the difficulties in the aviation sector linked to the Covid crisis.
In June 2020the Constitutional Council had drawn up a critical assessment of the RIP, judging the procedure “dissuasive and difficult to read”. He criticized in particular the difficulty of using the dedicated website, and the discouraging aspect of having such a large number to reach, and suggested in the future to carry out public information campaigns, or to create the conditions of a debate.
What other forms of referendum exist in France?
In France, referenda have so far always been initiated by the executive at national or local level. There are then two types of vote: “local decision-making referendums”, on issues falling within the competence of local authorities (for example a change of name of the inhabitants, the introduction of video surveillance in the municipality, etc.), the result of which becomes effective only if more than half of the voters have taken part in the vote , and local environmental consultations. This is the form that was chosen to get the inhabitants of Loire-Atlantique to vote on the airport of Our Lady of the Landes. But unlike the referendum, it is only "advisory". Thus, the airport project, although approved by the ballot box, was abandoned by the government.
The current RIP is the form that comes closest to the initiative referendum "citizen" claimed since November 2018 by the "yellow vests". But they asked that the threshold of signatures to trigger it be lower, between 700,000 and 1.5 million votes. Other proposals for direct democracy emerged from their reflections, such as drawing lots or more open voting systems.
On the occasion of the great national debate of 2019, most political groups in the Assembly and the Senate suggested lowering the threshold of 5 million signatures.