The French Senate Elections Explained

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The Senate Chamber, Palais du Luxembourg

Why you haven’t been called to the polling booth this Sunday

(The first round of the French senatorial elections takes place on Sunday, 24th September)


22nd September, 2017

logo_lefigaro_35px Etienne Jacob & AFP

INFOGRAPHICS : Le Figaro provides an update on the complex election procedure for the Senate, in which only the electoral college can vote.

The presidential, the legislative… after two elections marked by repeated twists and turns, the electoral marathon comes to an end this Sunday [24th September, 2017] with the Senate election. How are the senators elected? What’s at stake? Le Figaro looks at this election, which will be decisive for the rest of president Macron’s five-year term.

Half of all seats up for renewal

Elections for the Senate take place every three years. They allow half of the Senate seats to be renewed. This year, 170 of 348 senate seats are up for election, ranging from Indre-et-Loire to Pyrénées-Orientales, Île-de-France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Réunion, Nouvelle-Calédonie, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, and six senatorial seats reserved for French expatriates. The number of senators elected in each constituency varies in proportion to the population: one for Lozère, five in the Bas-Rhin, and twelve in Paris.

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The départements taking part in the senatorial elections of 2017

The Election Process

The senators will be elected through universal indirect suffrage by an electoral college of some 75,000 officials (against more than 87,000 in 2014).  The college includes senators and [Lower House] deputies, departmental and regional councillors, and delegates from municipal councils. There are no abstentions, as voting is compulsory.

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Composition of the Electoral College at the 2014 senatorial elections

In départements that elect three senators or fewer, the election takes place by majority vote in two stages [tours], as for a presidential election. The candidates can present themselves on lists, or individually. On the other hand, in départements electing four or more senators, the rules of proportional voting apply. Lists are obligatory, and seats are allocated according to the order of appearance on the lists. [The candidature was announced between the 4th and 8th September, 2017.]

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Senatorial Elections : A User’s Guide

Critical Issues

Prior to the present election, the Right had a senate majority: it controlled 190 of the 348 seats. In principle, the result of senatorial elections reflects that of the preceding municipal elections, since 95% of the electoral college is composed of delegates nominated by the municipal councils. But the arrival of Emmanuel Macron and La République en marche! on the electoral chessboard could easily upset everything, because on both Right and Left, several mayors have changed their stripes to match that of the Head of State.

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Translation by Edward Shilling