THE SENATE has become majority left-wing for the first time since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
Socialists and Greens see the switch, which followed the senatorial elections on Sunday, as a sign of things to come for the legislative (MPs) and presidential elections next year.
“It’s more than a failure, it is a trauma for the right,” said Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande. The president of the socialist group in the senate, Jean-Pierre Bel, said it was a “day that will mark history”.
Left-wing parties won 177 seats – two more than they needed for an absolute majority (out of a total 348).
The Elysée said the swing was a consequence of successive left-wing victories in local elections – the senators are voted for by so-called grands électeurs, made up of MPs and local councillors (the large majority from mairies).
However it “no way constitutes a rejection of the government’s politics” at national level, said government spokesman Jean-François Copé.
Prime Minister François Fillon said in a statement the real “moment of truth” would come next spring, however with the senatorials “the battle has begun”.