Macron's party suffers setback in French Senate vote

PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron's new centrist political party suffered its first electoral setback in French Senate elections, in which the right-wing Republicans party strengthened its dominance in the Upper Chamber of Parliament.

Results from Sunday's vote to renew 171 of 348 seats left Mr Macron's Republic on the Move party (LREM) with a group of only 28 senators.

The outcome, which is not expected to significantly impact Mr Macron's ability to push through his economic reform agenda, came after months of falling approval ratings for the 39-year-old head of state.

But after a week in which he signed into law one of his signature economic reforms - an overhaul of rigid French labour laws - a new survey on Sunday brought more positive news.

A poll published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed 45 per cent of respondents approved of his presidency, up from 40 per cent last month.

French senators are elected by 76,000 local and national lawmakers, not the public, which put LREM at a disadvantage because the party was formed only in April last year and is not implanted nationwide.

But Mr Macron's top team had once hoped to increase the party's presence in the Upper House from the 29 seats they controlled, comprising lawmakers who had switched over to it.

Instead, the Republicans were the main winners, now set for 159 seats after the elections, up from 142. Mr Laurent Wauquiez, a candidate for presidency of the Republicans, welcomed the result as a "first warning" for Mr Macron.

The socialists limited the damage despite their crushing defeat in the presidential and legislative elections, and returned 81 senators, a loss of five seats.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Macron's party suffers setback in French Senate vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe