Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in January 2012. Ayrault’s premature comments provoked criticism that he had violated the balance of powers in French government.
Photo: Flickr.com/jmayrault

On October 24 France’s Constitutional Council, the highest legal authority, censored the new housing law that had been passed on October 10. The Council censored the law because its process of implementation “did not respect the parliamentary procedure regarding its examination in the Senate.” The government wanted to pass the law quickly, and so the Senate adopted it on October 10. But since a revised version had been produced in committee that same morning in the National Assembly, that is the version that should have been approved, not the original text of the law.

This type of error was described as many French newspapers to be a “parliamentary mess.” The law itself was the project of Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, and aimed to make housing cheaper as well as increasing the social housing rate.

Before the Council had a chance to reveal their ruling, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced, also on October 24, that the Constitutional Council would censor the law. After Ayrault’s announcement, Jean-Louis Debré, head of the Constitutional Council, said that the Council had “not yet given a ruling” on the matter.

The Prime Minister does not have the right to express the opinions of the Constitutional Council. In this case, he did so before the Council had even expressed its own opinion, bringing criticism from the Union Pour Un Movement Populaire (UMP), the opposing party to the Parti Socialiste (PS) majority. The UMP asserted that in speaking for the Constitutional Council, Ayrault committed a “serious violation of the balance of powers.” The Council did end up censoring the law that was adopted by Parliament on October 10, saying it is “against the constitution.”

The two options available for the government are either to propose a new bill or to present the censored content of the law as a bill.