French senate poised to swing left

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France's socialists were making strong gains as results for Sunday's Senate vote trickled in, with the upper chamber poised for a historic swing left seven months ahead of presidential polls.

Losing a Senate majority would be a fresh blow for the UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has a corruption probe linked to arm sales closing in on him and remains one of France's least popular presidents.

France's right wing has controlled the Senate since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.

The party's national secretary for elections Christophe Borgel said the results showed the discontentment of local elected representatives charged with voting in Senate members.

"The left is making gains everywhere, there's a sense of a groundswell," he said.

The left has to win 23 of the 170 seats up for grabs to win an overall majority in the upper house, whose number of members is rising from 343 to 348.

The left currently holds 153 seats, split between the Socialist Party, the Greens, the Left Party and other groups.

© 2011 AFP

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