Thursday, June 27, 2019
Home News Reform of the Assembly: Ferrand's giving and giving with the opposition

Reform of the Assembly: Ferrand's giving and giving with the opposition

Season 2 of the institutional reform is due to begin this summer. As announced Monday night Edouard Philippe, just one year after the abandonment of a first text, a new draft of the constitutional law must be presented in Council of Ministers "beginning of July". But his review will probably not begin until the summer break. The President of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, is determined to take a step forward and to update the operation of the house. He tabled on Monday a motion for a resolution reforming the internal regulation: a series of measures that do not require retouching the Constitution.

Unlike his predecessor perch, François de Rugy, who had showcased seven major projects supposed to modernize the Assembly involving a multitude of MPs of all sides, Richard Ferrand opted for discreet consultations in small committee. It is essentially the chairmen of the eight groups who have been in the loop, in seven meetings since November.

Shorten the debates

The Finistérien – who also consulted the former Presidents of the Assembly – had every interest in associating them because everything is not, a priori, to please the deputies of the opposition. Richard Ferrand hears, above all, "Streamline" the procedure to speed up the discussions. "Overload of activity, constant inflation, saturation", Point Ferrand, who panics: "We'll try the 148,000 amendments if we continue like this." Macronists repeat it in a loop: in their eyes, the time spent on a text between commission and then reading in the hemicycle and round trip with the Senate engulfs the calendar. To shorten the debate, Ferrand proposes to create a new procedure which would concentrate the examination of a text on the commission. It is only at this stage that members would defend their amendments. This lightened device, reserved for all or part of a text, would be decided at a conference of presidents (the collegial body where the agenda is decided) and each group would have a veto.

It is also a question of sorting more strictly the amendments, admissible or not. Last year, the proposed amendment framework sparked an uproar in the opposition. This time, it is a question of sticking to the more scrupulous application of the Constitution, to chase the "horsemen" (these amendments without any connection with the text). To get to the quickest of the subject, it is also a question of simplifying the lengthy general discussions and of suppressing the "motion to refer back to committee", which has never been voted on. If we give the microphone less to the parliamentarians, we will leave them the pen: on a proposal of the UDI Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the deputies could deposit a written contribution on a text or an amendment which would be published in the Official newspaper. "It's not" my life my work "on 500 pages, it will adjust the volume", warns Ferrand.

One QAG session per week

For the opposition, which uses these tools to challenge government plans, the potion may be bitter. In return, it would be arrogated rights, such as the possibility of landing once a year the report of a commission of inquiry – until then almost always reserved for the majority – the position of first vice president of the Assembly, or the assurance of being able to defend the texts of its niche, without being deprived of debate by a procedural motion of the majority. Non-attached MPs, who have almost no weight in the Assembly, would also gain the right to sit in certain instances. Above all, the opposition would see its quota of questions to the government climb. Today, on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays, opposition groups must share fifteen questions and fifteen members of the majority vote. Which rarely take the opportunity to "challenge" the ministers. The reform Ferrand suggests to reserve 22 to the opposition and leave eight to the majority, rather losing: "A sacrifice to which we have consented"says the boss of the LREM group, Giles Le Gendre.

Incidentally, and this is undoubtedly the more public part of this parliamentary kitchen, the questions to the government will be reviewed – and "vivified", hopes Ferrand: a single session of two hours on Tuesday, and the possibility for the MP to reply to the minister questioned on the time allowed, two minutes, the minister can in turn respond.

Finally, the President of the Assembly wants to consolidate an unrecognized and unattractive procedure: that of the right of petition. Today, the device does not work: of the 36 petitions tabled in the Assembly since 2017, none was discussed in session. The idea is to allow citizens to create online petitions. If one of them reaches 100,000 signatories, it will be considered in committee. Beyond 500 000, the initiative opens the doors of the hemicycle. The recasting of the by-law must be discussed at the end of May for an application scheduled for the beginning of September.

Laura Equy

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