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Macron party braces for new setback in Senate polls

Published on September 27, 2020

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party braced on Sunday for a new setback in elections for France’s Senate upper house, where the right is expected to hold on to its majority.

French Senate members are not directly elected by voters, but instead by tens of thousands of local councillors who are themselves elected by the people.

After Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party performed woefully in the local elections earlier this year, it is not expected to make any significant impact in the Senate vote.

Senate elections take place every three years in France, with half of the chamber’s 348 seats at stake each time.

LREM, dogged by problems in recent months after successfully propelling Macron to the presidency in 2017 elections, currently only has 23 senators.

There is little chance their ranks will swell in Sunday’s polls, while Francois Patriat, the leader of LREM’s Senate group, could even lose his seat.

With 143 seats in the Senate, the right-wing Republicans are expected to keep control of the chamber and continue the historic dominance of the right in the Senate.

But a strong performance in the recent local elections could allow the Greens and Socialists to boost their presence.

While it has some authority especially over constitutional issues, the Senate lacks the power of the National Assembly lower house, which has been controlled by LREM since 2017 legislative elections soon after Macron won the presidency.

But the health of LREM, and in particular its failure to put down roots at the local level, is a growing headache for Macron as he prepares to seek relection in 2022.

Some two dozen MPs earlier this year defected from LREM to other groups, formally robbing the party of its overall majority, although the make-up of the National Assembly means it can still pass legislation.

The party’s number two Pierre Person told the Le Monde daily this month that he was stepping down from his executive post to “give the party a new lease of life”, saying it was in need of an “electric shock”.