Five things to know: French Senate elections

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Five things to know: French Senate elections
A silent, but important democratic ritual is about to take place. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

An important but subdued ritual in French democracy takes place in less than two weeks when nearly half of the seats in the Senate will be up for election. Here are five things you should know about this unusual vote.


Elections to France's upper house of parliament, the Senate, are due to be held on September 28, but most people in France won't be voting.

That's not due to apathy with the political system, because the selection of who will fill the seats in the 356-member chamber is not made in a popular election. Instead, similar to the Electoral College in the United States, senators are chosen by other elected officials.

The results could be interesting because President François Hollande's Socialists currently dominate the body, but given his deep unpopularity and troubled government they are likely to take a drubbing in the vote.

Here are five things you need to know about the Senate vote:
Record pool of candidates: 1,733 candidates are in the running for the 178 seats in the Senate, whose headquarters looks onto the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. That's a record number of hopefuls. Last time round, in 2011, there were 1,374 candidates, and in 2008 just 754.
Lots of women: Women make up 42 percent of all the candidates. That's just slightly down on the number last time round and below the 43 percent record set in 2004.
National Front first?: The far-right anti-immigrant, anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen, buoyed by recent victories in European and local elections and strong showings in the opinion polls, is hoping to win some seats in the Senate for the first time ever. 
Older folks club: The youngest candidate is 24 years old but the average age is 55, with the most elderly clocking in at 88.
Indirect election: Senators are elected by around 150,000 elected officials, including regional and departmental councillors, mayors, city councillors in the bigger towns, and members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Members of the Senate are not directly elected by the public. 
By : Rory Mulholland


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