This is one of the last weapons available to opponents of the pension reform, adopted in force Thursday by the invocation of 49.3. On the sidelines of the ballet of censure motions, several voices are raised, such as those of François Ruffin, deputy of Nupes, or the communist leader Fabien Roussel, to launch a shared initiative referendum (RIP).
Rather little known, this democratic tool makes it possible – in principle – to organize a popular consultation on a bill. Problem: the conditions required to put it in place are so drastic that such a procedure ultimately never came to fruition, nearly 15 years after its establishment. Explanations.
The introduction of the shared initiative referendum dates back to the constitutional revision of 2008, on the initiative of Nicolas Sarkozy, with the modification of article 11 of the Constitution, devoted to the referendum.
It has since included the possibility of organizing a popular consultation on a bill "on the initiative of a fifth of the members of Parliament supported by a tenth of the voters", or 4.87 million people. It took until December 2013 for an organic law to establish the organizational arrangements.
The text must be tabled by at least 185 of the 925 parliamentarians (577 deputies, 348 senators). The consultation may relate only to areas of the organization of public authorities, reforms relating to economic, social or environmental policy and to the public services which contribute thereto, or the ratification of a treaty.
As soon as it is tabled, the Constitutional Council first checks, within one month, that the proposal complies with the rules for organizing a referendum.
But if the "Sages" give the green light, the obstacle course has only just begun. At least 4.87 million people must be signed electronically within nine months. A glass ceiling: in 2019 and 2020, a previous RIP proposal, however massively shared, against the privatization of Aéroports de Paris had collected 1.1 million citizen signatures. Not enough, therefore, even if the disputed project was finally abandoned.
In the case, never reached, where the Constitutional Council intervenes once again to validate these supports. And finally, if the bill has not been examined at least once by each of the two parliamentary assemblies within six months – the last restriction – the President of the Republic submits it to a referendum. In the event of a positive result, the President promulgates the law within fifteen days.
In June 2020, the Constitutional Council had drawn up a critical assessment of the RIP, judging the procedure "dissuasive and difficult to read". 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 citizen signatures, which is often disputed.
The "Yellow Vests" movement and part of the left had also called for the establishment of the citizens' initiative referendum (RIC), with a simplified procedure which would not necessarily require the approval of a part of parliamentarians.
Rejecting the idea of the RIC, Emmanuel Macron said on April 25, 2019 he preferred the RIP, with an "initiative" born of a petition signed by "one million citizens" which could "prosper as a bill and, if it was not examined by the Assemblies, go to the referendum".
The establishment of the RIC was on the program of the left-wing Nupes coalition in the last legislative elections.