On February 4, 2008, in Versailles, the French Parliament, united in a Congress of both chambers (Senate and National Assembly) will meet to vote on reforming the French Constitution. Both chambers have already, individually, adopted the changes, but a final vote is needed. This is, in substance, a vote for (or against) the Treaty of Lisbon, which, if adopted, will mean the virtual end of French sovereignty.
In order to approve the Treaty, it is first necessary to modify the French Constitution, a document conceived for a sovereign people. By reforming the Constitution to conform to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Treaty is, for all intents and purposes, approved. Conversely, by refusing to reform the current French Constitution, the Treaty of Lisbon is, for all intents and purposes, rejected.
Independent deputy, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, analyses the situation at his blog:
To reform the French Constitution a 3/5 majority of Parliament is needed. Conversely, to block the reforms 2/5 of the votes are needed. Only expressed votes are counted. The Parliament is composed of 331 senators and 557 deputies. The total number of potential votes (assuming everyone is there and everyone votes) is therefore 908. It follows then that a 3/5 majority is 545 votes and a minority opposition bloc of 2/5 amounts to 363 votes.
A MAJORITY IS NOT GUARANTEED
There are 321 UMP deputies and 159 UMP senators. [UMP is President Sarkozy's party.] This means that UMP has 480 possible votes provided all its members are present and vote without exception for the reform of the Constitution. Even so UMP alone does not hold the 3/5 majority needed! Sixty-five votes are still missing! If we factor in all the votes from the combined parties of the Center (MODEM and New Center), something that is not at all certain, we have 539 votes - still not the 3/5 majority. Five votes are still missing!
To have a 3/5 majority, Sarkozy must unite all the UMP parliamentarians, all those from the Center and all of the non-aligned from both houses of Parliament! Then we would have a total of 552 votes. Or just 7 more than needed! Seven votes! No more than that. We are far, very far from the notion that "it's in the bag", claimed by some who are unable to produce a single figure to support their thesis! Besides, and note this well, there is an unknown factor. An important one! There are 15 parliamentarians who are pro-sovereignty rightists! If they don't vote, Sarkozy's score falls to 537 votes and he loses. The truth is, for Sarkozy to fail to get his majority, all that is required is that 8 of them vote against the Constitutional reforms!
THE MINORITY BLOC
Reminder: a minority of 2/5 - 363 votes - is enough to block Sarkozy. The total number of left-wing parliamentarians - socialists, communists, MDC, Green Party, is 355 votes. We are missing 8 votes. Eight votes are also missing if all rightist parliamentarians are present and vote and if all pro-sovereignty members, and all non-aligned members and all centrists of whatever stripe vote with the UMP.
From all of this, with the figures to support it, we can conclude that it's a close call for Nicolas Sarkozy and that his only margin of security is the socialist parliamentarians who, in an act of betrayal, would give him a helping hand.
Why must the French Constitution be reformed? Because the Treaty of Lisbon contains restrictions on sovereignty, principles and measures that do not conform to the Constitution of the 5th Republic. […]
In the event Sarkozy wins, he has already made plans to convoke the two houses of parliament. And note this: to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon by parliamentary vote, a simple majority in each of the two chambers is sufficient, i.e., just the UMP votes. Why would a rejection of constitutional reform make a referendum necessary? Because there are only two ways to ratify a treaty: by parliamentary vote or by referendum. If reforms to the French Constitution are blocked by 2/5 of the votes, a referendum becomes the only way open. […]
This article, though long, clears up some issues. The road to ratification has multiple stages. First both Senate and National Assembly, severally, approve the wording of a text to reform the French Constitution. Then they vote together on whether or not the reform should be made. If the vote is for the reform, then they will have to vote on the Treaty itself. If the reform is blocked, they are obligated to hold a referendum.
Sarkozy will have to court, more than ever, his socialist allies.