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Macron's party disappoints in French Senate vote

September 25, 2017

France's conservative Republicans have consolidated their majority and even won a few more seats in this year's Senate elections, according to preliminary results. Macron's En Marche! has reportedly only come in third.

Frankreich Senat
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Mori

After suffering a dismal presidential election campaign earlier this year, France's conservative Republicans enjoyed a strong showing in Sunday's Senate elections. The conservatives will enjoy 150 seats in the French Senate until 2020.

French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist La République En Marche! (LREM) party, which was only created last year, ended up only securing 23 seats — significantly less than the 50 it had aimed for.

The result reflects Macron's waning popularity, both among the public and among lawmakers, after rising to the presidency less than five months ago.

"Voters clearly showed they wanted a parliamentary counterweight, which is in my view vital to a balanced democracy," said Gerard Larcher, the President of the French Senate.

Francois Patriat, the head of En Marche! in the Senate, refused to appear disappointed. "We began with a blank page," he said. "The real Senate election for En Marche! will be in 2020 when we have municipal councilors, regional councilors, and local elected officials."

Around half of the Senate's 348 seats were up for grabs in Sunday's election.

Senators are not chosen by public vote but are instead elected by political officials, including mayors, legislators and local councilors. Many of those officials are unhappy with Macron's proposals to cut subsidies to local authorities. 

While the result might damage Macron's legitimacy, it is not likely to prevent the president from seeing through his proposed business-friendly economic reforms, which have the backing of a majority of Republicans.

Stern test as Macron looks to cut one-third of parliamentarians

However, one proposal that could face stiff opposition is Macron's call to cut the number of parliamentarians by one-third. That would require the consent of three-fifths of the National Assembly and the Senate — around 555 votes.

Read more: What are French President Emmanuel Macron's labor reforms

The president can reportedly rely on winning the support of 400 parliamentarians, including 313 from his own party. However, he would still need to convince almost 160 senators to back his plan, which will be much harder to come by.

Macron has already indicated that should his proposal come to a deadlock, he would put it before the public in a referendum.

Macron vows to transform France

dm/kl (AP, AFP)