FRANCE’S centre-Right parties have grabbed back control of the second house of parliament, the Senate, after three years with a Left majority – but the big talking point for most was the Front National winning two seats for the first time.
The result is a third defeat for President Hollande after the municipal and European elections. It will make the job of Prime Minister Manuel Valls more difficult as it will mean delays in getting legislation passed even if National Assembly holds ultimate power and the Left still has a majority there.
The result was not a surprise as Mr Hollande’s popularity has slumped to 13% and unemployment hit new records, but the victory for the UMP comes just after former president Nicolas Sarkozy announced his return to politics with a bid to take over its leadership.
FN leader Marine Le Pen hailed the election of Stéphane Ravier in Bouches-du-Rhône and David Rachline in Var as a “great victory, an absolutely historic victory”.
The Right-wing now has 187 of the 348 seats if Centre parties are included and Ms Le Pen said the two FN senators would be a “breath of fresh air in a rather sleepy chamber”.
While MPs in the assembly will still get the final say on any new legislation, a Right-wing majority in the Sénat could make things very difficult by amending Bills and forcing the assembly to rewrite and revote them. However, the Centre parties would need to join the Right for this to happen.
Senators are voted by 87,000 so-called “grands électeurs” who are local mayors and councillors and the Senate is traditionally seen as representing rural France – although there have been complaints about its place in modern society and especially its cost.