Photographer: Geoffry van der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

French Center-Right Opposition Cements Hold on Senate

  • Upper house has few powers, can’t block Macron’s program
  • Indirect election reflects local voting from two years ago

The center-right opposition party The Republicans cemented its control over the French Senate, a result that’s a setback for President Emmanuel Macron but won’t derail his plans to push through far-reaching changes to the country’s tax and pension systems.

The Senate, which has far fewer powers than the U.S. equivalent, on Sunday renewed 170 out of its 348 seats. But because seats are chosen by an electoral college of about 76,000 municipal councilors and mayors, the results largely reflect France’s last set of local elections in 2015 -- two years before Macron formed his political party.

Macron and wife Brigitte stand with Nicolas Sarkozy, center.

Photographer: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The National Assembly, where Macron’s party has a clear majority, has the final say on all normal legislation. Even so, the Senate’s assent is required to change the constitution, including Macron’s plan to reduce the number of lawmakers.

The Republicans, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, gained seven seats and will have 149 seats in the Senate, according to projections by BFMTV, with a group of centrist allies having 48 seats. The next largest group will be the Socialists, even though it lost 18 seats and will have only 68.

Macron’s party, The Republic on the Move, lost six seats and will have 23 seats in the renewed Senate, all of its members having defected from other parties. As in the National Assembly, Macron can still count on Republican and Socialist legislators who back his government’s program on a case-by-case basis. Francois Patriot, head of Macron’s party in the Senate, had targeted 45 to 50 seats after Sunday’s vote.

The French Senate has such little power that the electoral results were barely covered on the main evening news shows, coming behind lengthy reports on the German elections.

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