Little-known to the general public, the senatorial elections are nevertheless essential to understand the division of the legislative power in France.
Every three years, half of the seats in the Luxembourg Palace are renewed by a college of “grand voters”, of which 95% are municipal council officials.
As representatives of the plurality of France’s territories – or the “terroir” – senate candidates often have a long experience of local politics, combining years of municipal, county and regional mandates. Therefore, the political colors of the Senate naturally reflect those of the latest local election.
Thus, the breakthrough of the Greens during this year’s municipal elections was naturally followed by a second breakthrough in the upper house, notably thanks to alliances with the left in several counties. With 6 additional seats, the Greens can now form a parliamentary group.
Whilst the Socialists lost a few seats, the big winners in the election are, unsurprisingly, the right and the center. With 76 renewed seats and ten additional ones, the Republicans group keeps the majority and, alongside the centrist Union, confirm the traditional conservative tendency of the Senate.
As expected, these elections were not a success for the presidential party “La République En Marche” (LREM). However, Macron’s party is not entirely to blame: as the Senate is a house of long term politics, it seems understandable that a party created less than 5 years ago hasn’t had enough time to consolidate a large scale network of local elected representatives. In fact, the party did not yet exist in the last county and regional elections.
LREM remains hopeful however to create a “presidential majority” group within the Senate, in order to compensate for this lack of territorial anchoring. This would bring together LREM with the centrist parties “Modem” and “Agir”, until now divided in the Luxembourg Palace between the groups “Indépendants-Liberté et Territoires (RTLI)” and “Union Centriste”.
Finally, these elections are a reminder that the traditional parties remain firmly anchored in France, despite a lower representation in the National Assembly. If the chances of Emmanuel Macron’s re-election in 2022 seem well on track, notably due to few credible alternatives, it is also possible that the following legislative elections would not be as easy for the President’s party as they were in 2017. LREM seats could easily switch back to the traditional right or left. Indeed, the 2017 legislative elections saw a sea of LREM victories, often by representatives running for the first time and with little experience. This time around they may be less lucky when voters turn to the traditional parties once more.
With a right-wing Senate continuing to play its « constructive opposition” role on one side and a National Assembly without a strong majority on the other, a second term for President Macron could prove to be more delicate.