“A Bad Law Is Not Necessarily Unconstitutional”

8 January 2024

Laurent Fabius, who presides over the Constitutional Council, presented that body’s ritual New Year’s wishes to President Macron today. Macron, who availed himself of the same day to jettison his long-suffering prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, cannot have been gratified by Fabius’s reminder that the Constitutional Council is not intended to be an editorial bureau tasked with excising unpalatable provisions from ill-conceived laws. “An unconstitutional law is necessarily bad; a bad law is not necessarily unconstitutional.”

Macron will not have needed reminding that the bad law to which he consented in order to win the approval of the National Assembly to something he could label “immigration reform,” even if it wasn’t the law he wanted or the law he should have wanted were he a wiser and less politically ambidextrous figure, would not necessarily be shorn of the provisions that he, Macron, doesn’t like simply because he has publicly expressed his dislike for them. That is not how the legislative process prescribed by the constitution is supposed to work. These rebarbative measures, repudiated (however sotto voce) by some of his own ministers and leading coalition partners such as François Bayrou, were in fact duly approved by a majority of deputies and promulgated as law by the president, even as he denounced parts of it as “unconstitutional.” Not so fast, says Fabius. You and I may dislike the text, but it remains to be seen which if any parts of it are constitutional. The Constitutional Council is not supposed to be guided by the president’s efforts to cast a hard-right bill as yet another supposed en même temps compromise once the offending passages are struck out.

This is not Macron’s only embarrassment. Now that he has fired Borne, he has to conjure up yet another prime minister. Parliamentary logic dictates turning to LR, but nobody from LR seems to want the job, or the thankless assignment of rescuing Macron from the impasse into which the last legislative election plunged him. No doubt someone will be found whose ambition will get the better of his or her judgment. That person will almost surely live to regret the day.

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