French senate gets first socialist speaker
France's upper house elected its first socialist speaker by a clear majority Saturday, a week after the left-wing opposition gained control of the Senate in a new blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Jean-Pierre Bel, 59, leader of the Socialist Party group in the Senate since 2004, was elected by 179 votes to 134 for outgoing rightist speaker Gerard Larcher and 29 for centrist Valerie Letard.
In last Sunday's election the Socialist Party and its Communist and Green allies won enough seats to give the left the upper house for the first time in French history.
The Socialists hope it will be a stepping stone towards a presidential win in seven months' time as Sarkozy reels from poor popularity ratings and a widening corruption scandal affecting close aides.
© 2011 AFP