August 22, 2017
French senate elections and chances of constitutional reform
The French senate elections on September 24 are the next electoral test for Emmanuel Macron. After that, the next elections will be the European elections in May 2019. The senate election is not so much a test of his popularity, as senators are elected by other elected officials. But it matters strategically. About 170 out of 348 senators will be newly elected.
The big question for Macron is not about whether he can win a majority as it did in the legislative elections in June. He cannot. And from what we know now it looks like the right will preserve its majority. Currently they have 186 out of 348 seats.
The real question is whether Macron will get a three-fifths majority in the combined parliament - the National Assembly together with the Senate - to get his constitutional reform approved. Let’s do the count: Together the 348 senators and the 577 MPs are a total of 925 parliamentarians, and a three-fifths majority is thus 555. La République en Marche has 314 MPs and a group formed in the senate with 30 senators. If they double this number, as is their ambition in these Senate elections, and add the MoDem numbers, one arrives at 430. These numbers suggest that they are still well short of the required majority. But Édouard Philippe still has friends among the Republicans, and this could count politically according to L’Opinion. There are the 35 MPs of the Constructifs, a government-friendly group, and among senators the group close to Alain Juppé and Bruno Le Maire might pull their weight. The crucial link. though, is Edouard Philippe himself, and whether he manages to mobilise enough support for a constitutional reform promised by the president.