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2011 French Senate election

A Senate election was held for 165 of the 348 seats in the Senate of France on 25 September 2011. Senate members were primarily elected by municipal officials, and the number of senators was increased from 343 to 348, due to the growth of France's population since the previous election was held in 2008. The Socialist Party and other left-of-center parties gained a majority of seats in the upper house for the first time in the Fifth Republic.[2]

2011 French Senate election

← 2008 25 September 2011 2014 →

165 of 348 seats in the Senate
175 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party Third party
  Jean-Pierre Bel (2012).JPG Gérard Larcher.jpg Bayrou Bercy 2007-04-18 n13.jpg
Leader Jean-Pierre Bel[1] Gérard Larcher[1] Valérie Létard[1]
Alliance Union of the Left Presidential Majority ARES
Leader since 1 October 2008 1 October 2008
Leader's seat Ariège Yvelines Nord
Seats before 152 161 30
Seats won 177 140 31
Seat change Increase25 Decrease21 Increase1

President of the Senate before election

Gérard Larcher

President-elect of the Senate

Jean-Pierre Bel

Brown areas show departments in contention in the election (Series 1).


e • d 
Political Groups 2004 2008 2011
Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire) UMP 155  7 151  4 132  19
Centrist Union (Union centriste) UC 33  20 29  4 31  2
Presidential Majority 188  27 180  8 163  17
Socialist (Socialiste) SOC 97  14 116  19 130  14
Communist, Republican and Citizen (Communiste, Républicain et Citoyen) CRC 23  0 23  0 21  2
European Democratic and Social Rally (Rassemblement démocratique et social européen) RDSE 16  3 17  1 17  0
Europe Écologie–The Greens (Europe Écologie – Les Verts) EELV 10  10
Union of the Left 118  14 139  19 178  22
Non-Registered (Non-Inscrits) NI 7  1 7  1 7  0
Total 331  13 343  12 348  5
Source: Public Senat

Swing to the leftEdit

Prior to the 2011 election, the French Senate had been under the majority control of right or centre-right parties since the start of the Fifth Republic. Following left-wing gains in the senatorial elections of 2004 and 2008, the 2011 elections saw the Senate coming under the control of left-wing parties such as the Socialist Party, who gained around 24 new seats.[3][4][5][6]

Senate PresidencyEdit

After the election, the incumbent President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, stated his intention to run for re-election; he believed that he could win despite the left-wing majority, with the aid of alliances with independents, centrists, and some leftists.[7]

Jean-Pierre Bel, President of the Socialist Group, was elected as President of the Senate on 1 October 2011, replacing Larcher. He received 179 votes against 134 votes for Larcher; a centrist, Valerie Letard, received 29 votes.[8]

Interpretations and potential consequencesEdit

The election was seen in many circles as a referendum on the incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity had been in decline over the preceding months.[9] François Hollande, a Socialist politician considered to be a leading contender for the 2012 Socialist presidential nomination, pointed out that the defeat meant the Sarkozy's incumbent Union for a Popular Movement party had lost seats in every election since he took office in 2007.[7] UMP politicians described the election results as "a serious warning for [their] party".[10]

Socialist control of the French Senate would prevent Sarkozy from passing a balanced budget constitutional amendment, which requires three-fifths of the vote from the combined French Parliament. It would also enable the Socialists to launch commissions of inquiry into, for instance, possible political corruption allegations.[7]

The German news magazine Der Spiegel, looking at September 2011 polls and forward to the May 2012 presidential election, observed that "the Socialist Party – still licking its wounds after a sex scandal brought down their great hope Dominique Strauss-Kahn – would win ... if it were held today." It also opined that Sarkozy's "foreign policy actionism" in Libya – including a 15 September visit to Tripoli with David Cameron[11] – and "proposals for a quick resolution to the Middle East conflict at the United Nations"[12] just prior to the election were not "able to perceptively increase his popularity".[13]


  1. ^ a b c The official candidates for the Senate Presidency
  2. ^ Louet, Sophie (25 September 2011). "French left seizes Senate majority, hurts Sarkozy". Reuters. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Renforcée par les régionales, la gauche vise plus que jamais le Sénat". Google. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Le chef de file des sénateurs PS entrevoit un Sénat à gauche en 2011". Le Monde. France. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Après les cantonales, la gauche lorgne le Sénat". 20 Minutes. France. 20 March 2008. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  6. ^ "French left marks historic Senate vote victory". Boston Globe. 25 September 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Samuel, Henry (26 September 2011). "French Senate's swerve to the Left: What it means". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  8. ^ Fabio Benedetti-Valentini, "French Senate Elects Jean-Pierre Bel First Socialist President", Bloomberg, 2 October 2011.
  9. ^ PressTV, 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  10. ^ "Sarkozy plots strategy after French Senate loss". Boston Globe. Retrieved 29 September 2011.[dead link]
  11. ^ Smith, David, "Cameron and Sarkozy meet Libya's new leaders in Tripoli", The Guardian, 15 September 2011 11.12 EDT. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  12. ^ "Sarkozy proposes Palestinian compromise at UN",, 21 September 2011 19:54 CET. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  13. ^ Allen, Kristen, "The World from Berlin: 'Sarkozy Has Lost the Heart of France'", Der Spiegel, 27 September 2011. The quote in the headline came from a "[c]enter-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung" comment on the election. Retrieved 28 September 2011.