Gérald Darmanin announced the abolition of land rights in Mayotte via a revision of the Constitution. But the government’s project will encounter several difficulties. Is it likely to succeed?

The government’s “radical decision” to end land rights in Mayotte is causing the entire political class to react. The day after Gérald Darmanin’s announcement from the 101st French department on Sunday February 11, the Minister of Overseas Territories, Marie Guévenoux, supports the need for the measure at the franceinfo microphone: “We will put an end to land rights in Mayotte because the conditions of Mayotte justify it. By “the conditions”, she means “an extremely strong migratory crisis” due to the arrival of Comorians and Africans “who come thinking they can benefit from land rights for some of them, that is to say say about having a child on French soil which then allows them to have a residence permit.

The government’s announcement brings satisfaction to the right, which believes it is the first to have considered such a measure. The far right is also satisfied with Gérald Darmanin’s declaration even if it considers it necessary to go even further by generalizing the measure to the entire French territory. But on the left, anger has been brewing since the Minister of the Interior’s speech. Socialist, environmentalist and rebellious elected officials assure that the abolition of land rights will not allow the island to emerge from the crisis situation it is experiencing and goes against the Republic. A position shared by the president of the Human Rights League, Patrick Baudouin, who judges the measure “extremely dangerous” on franceinfo.

Is Gérald Darmanin’s promise likely to come true? The abolition of land rights in Mayotte can only be ratified by a revision of the Constitution. The President of the Republic should therefore propose a draft constitutional revision later this year. Gérald Darmanin, Marie Guévenoux and Emmanuel Macron are due to meet this Monday, February 12 to consider a timetable for the constitutional revision project. The measure could be added to the draft constitutional law on New Caledonia, in any case this is what Mahorais MP LR Mansour Kamardine is asking for on behalf of his group in a press release: “We are asking the government to include the modification constitutional law authorizing the suppression of land rights in Mayotte in the draft constitutional law on New Caledonia, the examination of which is planned in Parliament next month.

But the formulation of the draft revision is only the first and simplest step. The adoption of a constitutional revision project must be done in two stages: the text must be voted on in identical terms in the National Assembly and the Senate, then it must be approved by a majority by referendum or by 3/5ths of Parliament meeting in Congress at Versailles.

The abolition of the right of soil proposed by the government should find support among the majority formed by the Renaissance, MoDem and Horizons parties, but it may not be unanimously accepted in the left wing of the presidential camp or among a few centrists . On the right of the political spectrum, the Republicans and the National Rally could support the text, but they should above all try to toughen up the revision project by negotiating their necessary majority votes, as they did for the immigration law. The left-wing forces are already promising to oppose the adoption of the text.

Mathematically, the majority could gather a majority of votes in the National Assembly and the Senate. In the lower house, the three parties of the majority, the right wing of the Republicans and the far right bring together 399 seats out of 577, even in the event of defections or abstentions from the left wing of the Macronist camp it is possible to reach the absolute majority set at 289 votes. A scenario only possible if the right and the extreme support the project. Same observation in the Senate dominated by the right: the senators of the majority, the center and the right occupy 228 seats out of 344. Under the same optimal conditions the draft revision could be voted on.

According to this same calculation, the Parliament meeting in Congress could vote on the text by a 3/5th majority: 553 votes would be necessary and in the event of unanimity between the majority, the right and the extreme right up to 627 favorable votes could be expressed. But political reality is rarely that simple. The majority risks having to confront opposition from the left and perhaps some of the centrists in their camp and demands from the right wishing to go further. It is therefore a new balancing act that awaits the government.

The abolition of land law risks encountering another difficulty: its constitutionality. In the opinion of several public law specialists, the text is unconstitutional. “This is a real break in the equality of citizens before the law, which is provided for by the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen,” according to Me David Libeskind, lawyer in public law, on BFMTV. This measure could also mark “a very significant break” in the principle of “indivisibility of the Republic” according to Patrick Weil, historian specializing in immigration and citizenship issues and research director at the CNRS contacted by AFP: “Make a differentiated law – in a given part of the territory – in matters of nationality, this is completely exceptional in the Republic, a regime based on the equality of citizens and the unity of the territory. More than a rupture, it would create “discrimination” and “inequality”, according to the president of the Human Rights League, who is convinced that the project will be censored by the Constitutional Council.

It will be up to the Wise Men of the Constitutional Council to decide on the question. “As it stands, this principle is only enshrined in the Civil Code, so it has the value of a law. We say in law that what one law has done, another can undo. But this is not not as simple, because it is a fundamental principle,” explained Me Pierrick Gardien, public law lawyer, on BFMTV. Which considers that the Constitutional Council could give this principle “constitutional value” to prevent the suppression of land law.