French centre-right keeps control of Senate, far-right wins 3 seats

FILE PHOTO: Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and president of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party parliamentary group, speaks during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, July 4, 2023. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France's centre-right Les Republicains (LR) party maintained its majority in the Senate after Sunday's vote, in which three senators from Marine Le Pen's far-right party were elected.

"This senatorial renewal reinforces the senatorial majority of the right and the center and is a testimony of its territorial roots," Gerard Larcher, the leader of Les Republicains and president of the senate, said in a statement.

The Senate is indirectly elected by France's mayors as well as regional, departmental and municipal councillors. Half of the Senate's 348 seats were being contested.

Le Pen's Rassemblement National had been widely expected to make a new breakthrough in the Senate but the score of three wins was above expectations.

The election of far-right senators is mostly a delayed reflection of strong results by Le Pen's party in previous local elections and does not necessarily predict her results in the next elections.

The only member of the French government running in the elections, Secretary of State for Citizenship Sonia Backes, was defeated in the French territory of New Caledonia.

Under France's Fifth Republic, the Senate has less influence over legislating than the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. In case of disagreement over legislation, it is the Assembly which has the last word.

French President Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance party remains the biggest party in the lower house, but lost its majority in June last year, giving more weight to senators whenever a compromise is necessary with the upper house to pass legislation.

Macron has struggled to anchor his party at a local level, with local authorities mostly controlled by France's historically dominant political forces, the conservative LR and the left-wing Socialist party.

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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