France: Macron's party faces likely blow in Senate elections

AP News
Posted: Sep 24, 2017 4:13 AM
France: Macron's party faces likely blow in Senate elections

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron's unconventional political party is fighting to make its mark on the Senate in elections Sunday for half the seats in the upper house — but the results are likely to reflect mounting disenchantment with Macron's leadership.

His centrist Republic on the Move! party, created just last year, won a large majority in the lower house of parliament in June elections, but is unlikely to do the same in the Senate.

Polls suggest the conservative Republicans party will consolidate its dominance of the chamber's 348 seats instead. Macron's party is likely to seek alliances in the Senate with other centrists and moderate Republicans and Socialists to approve his business-friendly economic reforms.

The senators are not chosen by the public but by some 75,000 elected officials — mayors, legislators, regional and local councilors — casting ballots in town halls across the country. Results are expected Sunday night. Nearly 2,000 candidates are running for 171 Senate seats.

It's the first time Macron's party is competing in Senate elections since he created it to shake up French politics and attract voters tired of the status quo. The party is hoping to win 50 seats.

The Senate voting system tends to give an advantage to locally rooted politicians from traditional parties, instead of candidates of Macron's party, many of whom are political newcomers. Also, many local elected officials are upset by Macron's plan to slash budgets of local authorities, and that could see the president's allies getting fewer votes than might have been the case a few months ago.

The election also comes as Macron's popularity is on the wane, just four months into his presidency.

Tens of thousands of people massed in Paris on Saturday to protest changes to labor law that they fear are dismantling the French way of life — and more protests and strikes are ahead. Truckers plan blockades of streets and fuel blockades Monday.

Macron insists the changes — which reduce union powers and hand companies more freedom to lay off workers — are need to create jobs and compete globally.

The lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, has the final say in French lawmaking, but Macron also needs broad support in the Senate to follow through on other major changes he has promised, notably to unemployment benefits, the pension system and the French Constitution.