A note on the groupes politiques in the new Senate

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a series of three pieces about the Senate renouvellement of 24 September 2017 that underlined the failure of the presidential party, La République en Marche (LRM), to make any inroads into the French upper house. In the second, I showed the camembert from Le Monde showing their best guess of how the numbers would play out in terms of Senate groups.

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We now have the final scores, as it were, this time courtesy of the excellent Public Sénat. It’s worth briefly making a comparison and offering a comment on how the groups have worked out, especially with the distribution of the divers droite categories of non-aligned right-wing senators, of whom Le Monde identified 33.

Now, at the time, we thought that perhaps as many 15 of these would join the majority Les Républicains group. This has not, in fact, happened. Instead, about 13 divers droite senators have joined the centre-right UDI group (known as the Union centriste).

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Sandwiched between them, on the organigramme at least, is a small group of 11 right-wing senators who have formed a group called République et Territoires/Les Indépendants. In a sense, this is a reflection of what happened earlier this year in the National Assembly, with a small number of LR deputies forming a group of centre-right macroncompatibles deputies under the label of Les Constructifs. The group calls itself ‘liberal, European and social’ committed neither to outright opposition to the government nor to blindly following. The group is dedicated to protecting the interests of local government and administration (aren’t they all?) but also, within the framework of the refondation of the right currently underway, committed to resisting the identitarian drift – la dérive identitaire – that some foresee if Laurent Wauquiez is elected leader of the LR.

Whether Les Indépendants are outriders for a bigger rift within LR, come December’s leadership election, whether they will be absorbed back into the main group or into the UC, or maintain their separate space remains to be seen, of course.

Meanwhile, on the left, the Socialist group has absorbed most of the Radicaux de Gauche and become the Groupe Socialiste et Républicain. The LRM group has just 21 members, as does the RDSE (a gain of five seats). On the far-left, the Communist-led CRCE group has grown to 15. The ecologists elected in the upper house are spread across the left-wing groups.

The three vacant seats are for senators who have either resigned because of the new law on the accumulation of elected offices (François Baroin and Henri de Raincourt*) or have retired from politics (former PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin). All three were LR senators and the group should take all three seats, in the Aube, Yonne and Vienne departments. The by-elections are scheduled for December.

*Raincourt , who supported François Fillon during the right-wing primary, is also currently investigation for alleged misuse of public funds. The investigation is suspended at present.