A strengthened position for the centre right, a limited influence of the President’s politics and a tendency to preserve the status quo: the French senatorial elections which took place last weekend did not lead to a big shake up of the political scene. While they shed some insight on what the 2027 presidential campaign might look like, the race is still very open.
The French Senate has historically sat on the right side of the political spectrum and this election confirmed that tendency. Re-elected by halves every three years, it is the voice of elected national and regional officials, known for defending local policies.
The traditional by-party system is still strong in the Senate and the left’s alliance strategy ahead of the elections ensured it gained a respectable number of new seats. Despite playing a prominent role in the National Assembly, especially since 2022, the far left and the far right have rarely been represented in the Senate. This year was no different, with 3 seats being won by candidates from the far right (Le Rassemblement National) and none by the far left (La France Insoumise).
The stark contrast between the political picture in each parliamentary chamber calls into question any long-lasting effect of what was seen as a political revolution by Emmanuel Macron in 2017. It suggests a stronger appeal for what could be described as traditional politics by those already in office or more controversially a search for stability against the backdrop of a lower chamber working to overcome its lack of an overall majority.
The senatorial elections were seen as potential indicators for who may emerge as a presidential candidate. Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s prime minister during his first term, saw his support increase, but it is too soon to say how popular he would be when it comes to the people’s ballot. The same could be said for the right-wing party, Les Républicains. Despite the general support for their candidates and their notoriety on the French political scene, this election has not produced a front runner.
This is a campaign that happened behind closed doors, amongst individuals who are all interested in public policy and for whom it is a duty to vote not a right. Any result cannot accurately reflect the popular opinion which is looking towards what its politicians are doing to answer the big questions on topics such as global warming, European sovereignty or social progress, and closer to home, on the impact of inflation on their daily lives. On these issues, the European elections in 2024 will play a bigger role in each party’s race to select their top seed.
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