Can a referendum on Macron’s privatisations heal French democracy?

Attempts to trigger a national referendum – or RIP – on plans to privatise Paris airports have thrown a spanner in the works for Emmanuel Macron. But they may also help the president deliver on a pledge to breathe new life into French democracy.

Paris, June 25.– In an unprecedented show of unity, Macron’s opponents from left and right held their first joint meeting in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis this week, kick-starting a campaign to keep Aéroports de Paris (ADP), one of the French state’s “crown jewels”, in public hands.

The unusual alliance of parliamentarians, described as “baroque” and “opportunistic” by the government, stretches from the Communists, who want to nationalise private firms, to the conservative Les Républicains, who rather like privatisations but not this one.

Heavily outnumbered in parliament, and sidelined by a president prone to ruling by decree, they have turned to an obscure referendum procedure, known as RIP, in a bid to thwart the government’s plans to sell all or part of the French state’s 50.6% stake in ADP, the world’s leading airport operator by passenger numbers.

The RIP however comes with stringent conditions that make it very hard to trigger, so hard that it has never been used before.

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