Senate (France)

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Basic data
Seat: Palais du Luxembourg ,
Legislative period : 3 years
First session: April 28, 1959
MPs: 348
Current legislative period
Last choice: September 24, 2017
Chair: Senate President : Gérard Larcher ( LR )
Distribution of seats:
  • LR 146
  • PS 78
  • UCR 50
  • LREM 21
  • RDSE 21
  • CRCE 15
  • Les Indépendants 11
  • Non-attached 6
  • Website

    The French Senate (Sénat) is the upper house ( French chambre haute ) of the French parliament next to the lower house (French chambre basse ), the national assembly . Senators are elected indirectly by around 150,000 members of parliament and local politicians. The number of voters in a region depends on the population, but not proportional to it: rural regions have proportionally more votes than cities.

    Senators are elected for six years. You are involved in the legislative process in the French political system , but can be overruled by the National Assembly in case of doubt. The control rights vis-à-vis the government are weak: the Senate has the right to question them and to publish reports, but no formal sanctions.

    The Senate in its current form is the result of the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic , which essentially strengthened the French President and Government and weakened Parliament. The government has numerous opportunities to intervene in the internal proceedings of the Senate. Since the Senate is the weaker of the two chambers, it has repeatedly been the target of prominent criticism in the past, which has questioned its right to exist.

    An amendment made in 2003 gave the Senate a little more autonomy, reduced the term of office from nine to six years and lowered the minimum age from 35 to 30 years. Due to the rural electorate has always been in the Senate since its inception in 1959 with only one exception (2011-2014 legislature) bourgeois - conservative passed majority.


    The French Senate (seen from the Jardin du Luxembourg)

    The Senate meets in the Palais du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris . The Republican Guard ( Garde républicaine ) is responsible for guarding it . In front of the Palais is the Jardin du Luxembourg , one of the most popular places to visit in Paris. The palace, the park and the Musée du Luxembourg are owned by the Senate.

    The palace, built from 1615 to 1620, is in the tradition of the French Renaissance castles, but has clear echoes of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The complex is surrounded by a small inner courtyard . Inside the palace is sumptuously furnished; paintings by Eugène Delacroix hang in the library .

    The palace itself was built for Maria de 'Medici , who only lived there for a few years before she fled to the Netherlands from Cardinal Richelieu . Other residents were Louis XVIII. when he was not yet king, the Directory of the French Revolution and Napoleon , who had his official residence here as consul. During the French Revolution it served as a prison, in which, among others, Georges Danton was imprisoned . Since the time of the First Empire , it has served as the seat of the French upper house. During the Second World War, Hermann Göring chose him as his Parisian residence.


    The senators are elected as representatives of their department. For the legend see the list of departments.

    The Senate currently consists of 348 Senators (sénateurs).

    Distribution of seats in the Senate according to regional origin
    origin Seats
    2004 2008 2011 2014
    Metropolitan France including Corsica and the overseas departments 313 322 326
    New Caledonia 1 1 2
    French Polynesia 1 2 2 2
    Mayotte 2 2 2
    Saint Barthelemy - 1 1 1
    Saint Martin - 1 1 1
    Saint-Pierre and Miquelon 1 1 1
    Wallis and Futuna 1 1 1 1
    French outside France ( French abroad) 12 12 12 6th
    All in all 331 343 348 348


    The senators are elected indirectly under Article 24 of the French Constitution . Electoral colleges (collèges électoraux) meet at the departmental level . Around five percent of the electoral college is made up of members who represent the department at national or subnational level: members of the National Assembly, members of the regional council (Conseil régional) and members of the general council (Conseil général) of the respective department. The vast majority of voters, around 95 percent, are community representatives who are appointed by their respective local councils. The number of representatives per community depends on the size of the community, but is not proportional to this.

    Sparsely populated regions are overrepresented and heavily populated regions are underrepresented. 31% of the delegates represent the 16% of the population who come from municipalities with less than 1,000 inhabitants, only 7% of the delegates, however, those 15% of the French who come from cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Overall, over half of the electorate represent only a third of the French. In addition, the electors themselves are also determined differently: in municipalities with up to 9,000 inhabitants, the majority of the municipal assembly determines all electors, in larger municipalities proportional representation applies - a procedure that in turn greatly favors the majority parties in small municipalities. In addition, the electoral districts are not regularly redrawn, so that up to 2004 the representation was still based on the state of 1976 and did not take into account the population changes that have occurred since then.

    Until 2004, a third was elected every three years, so that the terms of office of the senators only partially overlapped. The departments were divided into three groups: Group A consisted of the departments with the ordinal numbers 1 to 33, Group B of the departments with the numbers 34 to 66 and Group C of the departments with the numbers from 67 onwards. Only one elected Group. This group then re-elected all senators in this group on an election date.

    With effect from September 2004, the electoral system changed in important respects: The electoral term fell from nine to six years. Since the three-year electoral rhythm has not changed, not one third but about half of the senators have been re-elected since 2004 (since all senators in a department are always re-elected and the allocation to one of the two electoral groups is largely alphabetical, the group 1 170, elected in group 2 178 senators). The number of seats rose in two steps until 2011: in 2008 the number of senators increased to 341, since 2011 there have been 348. The elections have been postponed one year from 2008 in order to better adapt them to the electoral rhythm at local and regional level . The senators, who were elected in 2004, were elected partly for nine and partly for six years. In 2008 all senators were elected for six years. With these reforms, the Senate is to be more closely involved in active politics, and to take account of changed demographics and to adjust the number of senators to the actual population in the départements.

    The electoral system differs according to the number of senators a department has:

    • In the départements with a maximum of two senators, they are elected according to the Romansh majority system with two ballots, with an absolute majority in the first ballot and a relative majority in the second; the election in the first ballot also requires that the candidate has received the votes of a quarter of the eligible voters. Here, with each candidate, a substitute candidate is elected at the same time, who takes over the mandate if the actual owner is appointed to the government or dies; if the senator resigns his mandate for other reasons, the replacement candidate does not move up, but a by-election takes place.
    • In the départements in which at least three senators are elected, the election is based on proportional representation. The seats are distributed here according to the d'Hondt system on electoral lists of the individual parties or of party alliances. The substitute candidate is the first non-elected candidate from the same list in each case of a loss of office; if the list is exhausted, a by-election takes place.

    The assembly of the French abroad ( Assemblée des Français de l'étranger ) determines half of the twelve senators for the French abroad in each Senate election. Since 1982, 150 of the 172 members of this body have been elected by the French abroad in their respective consulates and 22 have been appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The twelve senators elected there are also members of the body in other areas.


    Senators have held their posts for six (up to 2004: nine) years. In theory, you can run again for an unlimited period of time. To be eligible to vote, applicants for the Senate must be at least 24 years old (up to 2004: 35, up to 2001: 30). Certain senior government officials such as prefects (préfet) in their départements or regions , sub-prefects, judges, police directors and public prosecutors at the departmental level or inspectors-general (inspecteurs généraux) appointed by the government are not eligible to vote . Since the 2017 Senate election, senators are no longer allowed to exercise executive electoral office at the local, departmental or regional level (e.g. as mayor or president or vice-president of a departmental or regional council).

    Ministers and, since 1972, directors of state or private companies which receive a high degree of public contracts or subsidies may stand for election, but their mandate is suspended as long as they carry out these functions; a substitute representative will take care of it during this time. There is an offset of one month from the date of election or departure from the government. The semi-presidential system in France prevents the tight entanglement of powers , which is common in purely parliamentary systems like Germany. Until the 2010s, joining the government formally even meant permanently resigning from the Senate, since then government members have been able to resume their mandate after leaving the government.

    The electoral system favors senators who are in rural areas engaged municipally have. Often they still hold lower-level political offices. In 1993, for example, 90% of all senators still held a local political office.

    The composition used to be comparatively static. On average, no more than a sixth of the members changed every three years. Due to the long term in office and the indirect electoral process, changes to the political landscape in the Senate were slow to take hold. Often, new senators are politicians who already have a political career behind them, for example as a minister or member of the national assembly, and who end their careers here. Often senators are elected who failed in the previous elections for the National Assembly or the European Parliament. The average age of the Senators in 1999 was 61 years, about ten years above the average age in the National Assembly.

    In September 2011, 170 out of 348 places were available for election as a result of the shorter electoral periods, almost half of them. Spiegel author Stefan Simons wrote:

    “As unsuccessful as France's left since President Francois Mitterrands was in the battle for the Élysée - socialists, communists and the Greens have made huge gains on the local grassroots. A change is taking place throughout the country, on the one hand through a generation change, on the other hand there is also the growing bitterness of the mayors and municipal councils: They are losing more and more influence in favor of the prefectures that are subordinate to Paris. At the same time, new requirements are constantly being passed on to town halls.

    This was reflected in the opposition's victory in the 2008 local elections, the 2010 cantonal elections and the 2011 regional elections. The win of the left in the town halls and departments first changed the composition of the electoral college - and now that of the Senate. "

    Position and duties

    The Senate is part of the French legislature and therefore primarily has tasks in legislating and controlling the government . However, its responsibilities are often designed to be of a more advisory nature and also depend on how the government interprets them. The political significance that the Senate can actually achieve depends to a large extent on the majorities in the other French political institutions. While he can support either the President or the National Assembly vis-à-vis the other in times of cohabitation , his role is mostly limited to policies of obstruction and prevention when he is in opposition to the President and National Assembly. If all three institutions belong to the same camp, it can best fulfill its intended role as an advisory and moderating body.


    According to the French constitution , the Senate does not have the same rights as the National Assembly . The Senate can propose laws or introduce changes to existing laws. In order to pass a law, the National Assembly and Senate have to pass it word for word in the basic case. If the two chambers fail to reach an agreement, the National Assembly can override the Senate. In addition, 60 members of the Senate and 60 members of the National Assembly can have the Constitutional Council ( Conseil constitutionnel - the French Constitutional Court) review the constitutional conformity of laws.

    In order to understand the French legislative process, it is important to know that the 1958 Constitution severely restricted the legislative powers of parliaments. It now only comprises a clearly limited catalog of subjects for which the parliaments are responsible; all others are regulated by government ordinance. If the parliament passes a law outside of these subject areas, the Constitutional Council must prevent it from being passed.

    The subject areas on which Parliament can act are:

    • the public freedoms
    • Establishing crimes and misdemeanors
    • Collection of taxes
    • Budget law
    • National Defense
    • Administration of local authorities
    • Education
    • Property right
    • Employment Law
    • Financing social security (since 1996)

    In practice, however, the government has so many opportunities to intervene in the legislative process that legislative proposals from parliament are hardly ever passed. The government has the right, among other things, to declare inadmissible bills that would either reduce public revenue or increase public spending. The government can also greatly speed up the legislative process. It can mark laws as urgent and thus drastically slow down the deliberation time in parliament as well as the possibilities of delaying the procedure through Navettes (see below) . In exceptional cases, it can also combine the legislative proposal with a vote of confidence. If it uses this means, the National Assembly must introduce a motion de censure within 24 hours or the law is deemed to have been passed automatically. And last but not least, the President can also have laws passed directly through a referendum and thus bypass parliament entirely.

    Relationship with the National Assembly: Navettes

    Both houses have to pass the law in the same word before it can be promulgated. The government decides in which order the chambers deal with the law. Only in deliberations on the state budget does the Senate generally come last and only deal with it after the National Assembly has decided on the government's draft.

    Since both chambers have to pass a law with exactly the same wording so that it can come into force, there are usually several navettes : the law goes with the changes from one chamber to the next, which in turn can introduce changes, to go back to the first chamber. If both houses of parliament have passed the law in the same wording, the French President can still submit the legal text or parts of it to parliament for repeated discussion.

    If no agreement can be reached, the government can convene a mediation committee ( Commission Mixte Paritaire ) composed of seven senators and seven members of the National Assembly. However, the government does not have to convene this committee, in practice it can sand such a law between the two chambers. If there is no agreement in the mediation committee either, the National Assembly can ultimately pass the law against the will of the Senate. In practice, depending on the political composition of the bodies, this occurs in less than one percent of the laws up to around six percent. Thus, the National Assembly actually has the greater political weight in the legislative process, but only if the government allows it. Exceptions are constitutional amendments or laws in the area of ​​state organization in which the National Assembly cannot overrule the Senate, i.e. both are really equal.

    Legislative initiative

    Bills can be submitted by the government (projets de loi) or the two chambers of parliament (propositions de loi) (right of initiative ). The position of the Senate is weakened by the fact that it cannot force the National Assembly to discuss its bills. Accordingly, between 1959 and 1995 only 112 of the total of 3,522 French laws passed were introduced by the Senate. Both chambers of parliament can, however, amend the bills proposed by the other chamber. This at least partially compensates for the Senate's weakness on the question of the legislative initiative. In the late 1990s, the Senate successfully proposed about 2,000 amendments per year.

    One of the most important methods the Senate has used to enforce itself is its right to have laws examined by the Conseil constitutionnel . Unlike in Germany, such a test is only possible before the law is officially promulgated (preventive control of norms). Since the constitutional amendment of 1974, the Senate President alone is no longer entitled to do this, but it is sufficient for 60 members of the National Assembly or 60 Senators to apply to the Constitutional Council for an abstract review of norms . Since then, the opposition has in fact also had the right to appeal to the constitutional judiciary and has made extensive use of it.

    Constitutional amendments

    The French constitution provides for two ways of changing it: on the one hand through a referendum , on the other hand through the assembly of the French parliament ( Congrès du Parlement français ), which consists of all members of the Senate and National Assembly. The government can choose which way to go, so far, with one exception (reduction of the presidential term of office from seven to five years), every constitutional amendment has been made by the parliamentary assembly. The President of the Senate also appoints three of the nine judges of the Conseil constitutionnel, the French constitutional court.

    Relationship with the government

    The Senate also has the task of government control, which takes place in the debate on the government declaration . The senators can also put oral and written questions to the government, which must answer them. Since the constitutional amendment in 1995, such oral question time has been provided at least once a week. This means that every single senator can force the government to publicly discuss an uncomfortable subject. Each year the Senate also submits various reports on government action.

    The Senate can convene committees of inquiry which have far-reaching rights to take evidence and question public witnesses. However, it can only examine what is not already being examined by the judicial apparatus, and the committee cannot meet for more than six months.

    Unlike the National Assembly, the Senate cannot remove the government. Only the Prime Minister can put the vote of confidence in the Senate of his own accord , but is not legally bound by its result. The president can only be removed from parliament if his conduct is “obviously incompatible with the exercise of his office” or if he has been found guilty of high treason. In contrast to the National Assembly, however, the Senate itself cannot be dissolved by the President.

    Should the President decide to dissolve the National Assembly or to declare a state of emergency, he must first consult the President of the Senate.

    Organization of MPs


    The Senate is chaired by the President of the Senate, who is re-elected after each partial re-election of the body, i.e. every three years. If the Constitutional Council determines that the French President is unable to carry out his duties due to serious illness, resignation or death, the President of the Senate will represent him until a new President is elected. This has occurred twice in history, Alain Poher officiating in 1969 for the resigned Charles de Gaulle and in 1974 for the late Georges Pompidou .

    The current President of the Senate has been Gérard Larcher ( LR ) since October 1, 2014 .

    Role of the parties

    The electoral mode of the Senate favors parties that are strongly anchored in local politics in small communities. Since its inception, the bourgeois-conservative camp has had clear majorities for a long time. In the 2000s, the lead of the bourgeois camp weakened because the political left had made significant gains in local and regional elections since 2000 and was therefore more strongly represented in the Senate's electoral colleges. The process led to the fact that in 2011, for the first time in the history of the Senate, the left won an absolute majority of seats, which it lost again in 2014.

    Small parties in the Senate either, like the Communist Party and the Greens , only receive a fraction of the number of seats they hold in the National Assembly; the Front National had no seats at all until 2014.

    Within the bourgeois camp, the dependency on a strong communal presence was also evident in the fact that the centrist parties with more local roots were usually able to win a majority in the Senate, while the centralist Gaullists made up the President and the majority of the National Assembly, but in the Senate the minority found.

    The bourgeois parties were even more fragmented in the Senate than in the National Assembly. Groups like the Independent Republicans (RI) or independent farmers' associations have long played a decisive role. In contrast, the Parti radical valoisien (PRV), which forms a coalition with the UMP in the National Assembly, forms a parliamentary group in the Senate with its sister party, the Parti radical de gauche , which is otherwise more inclined towards the socialists. It was only in the last few years that Christian Democratic groups and later the Gaullists succeeded in gaining a united conservative majority with the UMP , while more centrist groups such as the Parti radical de gauche lost votes.

    The Senate gives the individual Senator a stronger role in its rules of procedure than the individual Member of the National Assembly, which is supported by the composition of the Senate from people who have been in political life for a long time and no longer have any further career plans. The mood between the parliamentary groups is thus more relaxed and less competitive than in the National Assembly.

    Rules of Procedure

    Plenary hall

    Since 1995, the session begins on the first working day in October and ends on the last working day in June. The French President can convene an extraordinary session of the whole parliament at the request of the government or the National Assembly. The Senate automatically meets extraordinarily if there are new elections that have taken place after the dissolution of the National Assembly or if the French President uses the special powers under Article 16 of the French Constitution.

    The agenda is set by the Conference of Group Chairmen. However, under Article 48 of the Constitution, the government has the right to rearrange the agenda to the extent that it can move forward its legislative proposals or other items on the agenda. In addition, the government itself can submit amendments to proposals and remove items from the agenda that have not previously been discussed in committees. Since the constitutional amendment in 1995, the Senate has been able to organize one meeting day a month on its own and can thus bypass possible obstructive tactics by the government with certain laws. Also since 1995, at least one session a week has been devoted primarily to questions from MPs to the government.

    Originally, the Senate granted its members great freedom. The duration of the speech was often unlimited, individual senators or committees were usually able to use the competencies assigned to them without any problems and beyond their borders, and senators had extensive rights during the debate. Only when the opposition Senate began to use these rights more and more in the 1980s to hinder government projects through delaying tactics, the government succeeded in pushing through a change in the rules of procedure. The number and length of contributions to the debate is now mostly limited, proposals for changes to the law can be rejected more easily and quickly, and the chairman of the meeting has since then also had extended rights to discipline individual senators.


    There are currently the following parliamentary groups in the Senate: The Groupe Les Républicains (until May 2015: Groupe UMP ) consists primarily of the Senators of the Republicans . The Groupe socialiste et républicain (until 2011 only Groupe Socialiste ) consists mainly of members of the Parti Socialiste . The Groupe Union centriste (temporarily Union des démocrates indépendant ) united senators of various centrist parties from the legacy of the UDF ; they and their predecessors were long the dominant majority faction in the Senate. The Groupe La République en marche brings together senators from the party of the same name and other members, especially from left-wing parties that support Emmanuel Macron ; Most of these members have so far not become members of the parliamentary group by election but by transferring. The Groupe Communiste, Républicain, Citoyen et Écologiste (short: Groupe CRCE ) consists primarily of members of the Parti communiste français and the Parti de Gauche . The Groupe du Rassemblement démocratique et social européen ( Groupe RDSE for short ) stands in the tradition of the Parti radical and for a long time united, with the senators of the Parti radical de gauche and the Parti radical valoisien, both parties that emerged from it, although the two parties are different were attributed to political camps. Meanwhile the Parti radical valoisien belongs to the Union centriste , while other smaller parties have joined the RDSE. The youngest faction is the Groupe Les Indépendants - République et territoires , which includes members of right-wing and centrist parties that support Macron.

    Many parliamentary groups also include non-party senators ( Apparentés ) and senators from smaller parties that have joined the parliamentary group ( Rattachés ).

    The MEPs who do not belong to any political group form an administrative unit, the so-called RASNAG ( Réunion administrative des Sénateurs ne figurant sur la List d'aucun Groupe ), which elects a delegate to exercise their rights.

    Composition of the Senate according to parliamentary groups
    fraction Seats fraction
    Mandates 2008 Mandates 2011 Mandates 2014 Mandates 2017 Composition on October 25, 2017 Group leader
    Groupe Les Républicains 151 132 145 146 total: 145
    full members: 128 apparentés:
    rattachés: 11
    Bruno Retailleau
    Groupe socialiste et apparentés 116 130 113 78 total: 78
    full members: 77
    apparentés: 1
    Didier Guillaume
    Groupe Union Centriste 29 31 38 49 total: 49
    full members: 42 apparentés:

    rattachés: 1
    Hervé Marseille
    Groupe La République en Marche 21st total: 21
    Full members: 19
    Apparent: 1
    Rattachés: 1
    François Patriat
    Groupe you RDSE 17th 17th 12 21st total: 21
    full members: 19>
    rattachés: 2
    Jean-Claude Requier
    Groupe CRC 23 21st 18th 15th total: 15
    full members: 15
    rattachés: 3
    Éliane Assassi
    Groupe Indépendants 11 total: 15
    full members: 10
    apparentés: 1
    Claude Malhuret
    Independent 7th 7th 9 5 total: 5 Delegate: Philippe Adnot
    Groupe écologiste - 10 10 Fraction dissolved
    total 343 348 348 348 7 groupings
    Source: French Senate website ; List of the Membres des Groupes (PDF; 78 kB); Election results and archives
    1. a b Apparentés: Senators without party who have joined the parliamentary group
    2. a b c d e Rattachés: Senators of other, smaller parties that have joined the parliamentary group.
    3. 141 members immediately after the 2011 election (including the Groupe Europe Écologie-Les Verts , which then constituted itself as a separate parliamentary group)
    4. ^ European democratic and social gathering movement (Rassemblement Démocratique et Social Européen) , one of the oldest parliamentary groups in France.
    5. Immediately after the Senate election 2011 16 members, gain through by-election on March 18, 2012
    6. Communists, Republicans, Citizens and Ecologists (Communiste, Républicain, Citoyen et Écologiste)
    7. Groupe Les Indépendants - République et Territoires (The Independent Group - Republic and Territories)
    8. ^ Formation of the parliamentary group on January 11, 2012; previously, the Senators of the Greens, as rattachés, were a group within the Groupe socialiste
    9. Two seats were vacant immediately after the election, as the holders resigned due to the ban on the accumulation of mandates that came into force with the election; another senator, Jean-Pierre Raffarin , resigned on October 4, two days after the new Senate was constituted.


    Development until 1958

    Palais du Luxembourg around 1890; the time when the Senate was once called the Senate and had the most constitutional power of any French upper house in history.

    The Senate of the Fifth Republic goes back to the tradition of the bicameral system that developed during the French Revolution in order to moderate or prevent the legislative excesses of a single chamber. At the time of the Directory (1795–1799) the “Upper House” was the Council of Elders (Conseil des Anciens), during the Consulate (1799–1804) and in the First Empire (1804–1815) the Sénat conservateur, during the Restoration (1814 -1830) and the July monarchy (1830-1848) the chamber of the peers . Under the Second Republic (1848-1851) there was no second chamber in France. In the Second Empire (1851-1870) the upper house was reorganized under the name Senate.

    In the years since the First Empire, the House of Lords has always been a reservoir for conservative and monarchist forces; its existence in the times of the republic depended only on the monarchists supporting the republic itself in return. In the Third Republic (1870-1940) a Senate was set up again in 1875. At that time, the House of Lords was most likely a chamber that was legally and politically equal to the House of Commons. The Republicans managed to win a majority in the Senate as early as 1879. All ambitions to reintroduce the monarchy in France had thus finally failed.

    In the Fourth Republic (1946-1958), the Republicans wanted to abolish the Senate entirely, but were prevented from doing so by a referendum with the opposite result. This then resulted in the Council of the Republic (Conseil de la République) .

    Civil Government, Civil Senate: 1959–1981

    In 1959, during the Fifth Republic, the French upper house was reconstituted as a Senate. Charles de Gaulle , who himself designed the Senate in its current form, was less and less satisfied with it over the years. Although the Senate electorate was deliberately conservative, the majority centrist Senate attacked the President and the Gaullist majority in the House of Representatives early on and was covered by the left-wing groups of the National Assembly. The Constitutional Court, however, took the president's line and put down all legislative changes that would have given the Senate more legal influence.

    On April 27, 1969, de Gaulle wanted to banish the Senate completely to political insignificance with the help of a referendum; Among other things, most of his membership would have been appointed and no longer indirectly elected, and on the other hand he would have lost most of his powers in the legislative process. When this vote, which covered several points, failed, de Gaulle resigned as president. In retrospect, it cannot be said whether the Senate question was decisive. Although the Senate was repeatedly at the center of criticism later, this was the last serious attempt to abolish it.

    The role that the Senate had played was reversed after the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing . Now a centrist president and a centrist Senate majority faced the Gaullist-dominated lower house. The President now tried to strengthen the Senate. He informed him better than the National Assembly and took his advice on various occasions. The Senate reciprocated, for example, by not putting a law on election financing in European elections that had been rejected by the President on the agenda until the European elections were over and the law was thus ineffective.

    Socialist government, bourgeois senate: 1981–1986

    In 1981 the relationship changed again when the Senate faced a socialist president and a socialist majority in the national assembly. The President and the National Assembly used all possibilities of the rules of procedure to minimize the role of the Senate, for example they declared a large part of the bills as "urgent" in order to overwhelm the Senate with the workload and make it impossible for it to work effectively. In the absence of alternatives, the Senate increasingly tried to take destructive actions to completely disrupt the legislation. A publicly perceived high point of the controversy was a 1984 law to fund private schools, which the Senate delayed as much as it could in the ultimately legitimate hope that discussions of the unpopular law would create so much public pressure on the government that she withdrew the law by herself.

    Cohabitation and constitutional amendment: since 1986

    The years that followed were marked by changing majorities. 1986 saw the first cohabitation in which the socialist president faced a Gaullist national assembly and the centrist senate was able to mediate. The socialist minority government under Michel Rocard , which came to power in 1988, tried to involve the Senate and appointed a record number of six former senators as ministers. Soon afterwards the conflicts intensified again, until in 1993 the bourgeois camp replaced the socialists as the majority party in the National Assembly and in 1995 Jacques Chirac became the new president in succession to Mitterrand. The majority in all organs of the legislature belonged to the same party for the first time in the Fifth Republic, which for the first time made amicable cooperation possible.

    In 1995 there was a constitutional amendment that guaranteed senators parliamentary immunity, standardized the session and extended it from six to nine months a year. The constitutional amendment also expanded the Senate's control over its own agenda and made it easier for members of the government to be questioned.

    In the 2011 Senate election, the left won a majority in the French Senate for the first time in the history of the Chamber. In September 2014, the Conservatives regained a majority, and the National Front is also represented.



    • Udo Kempf: From de Gaulle to Chirac. The French political system. 3. Edition. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-531-12973-2 .
    • Joachim Schild (Ed.): France's 5th Republic. A changing system of government. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14802-8 .
    • Hans J. Tümmer: The political system of France. CH Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-52839-2 .


    • Jacques Baguenard: Le Sénat. 2nd Edition. Presses Universaitaires de France, Paris 1997, ISBN 2-13-047988-X .
    • Jean Cluzel: Le Sénat dans la société française. Economica, Paris 1990, ISBN 2-7178-1972-X .
    • Pascal Jan: Le Parlement de la Ve République. Ellipses Marketing, 1999, ISBN 2-7298-7925-0 .
    • Didier Maus: Le Parlement sous le Ve République. 3. Edition. Presses Universaitaires de France, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-13-047848-4 .


    • Samuel C. Patterson, Anthony Mughan: Senates. Bicameralism in the Contemporary World. Ohio State University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8142-5010-6 . (The Senate in a comparative perspective)
    • George Tsebelis, Jeanette Money: Bicameral Negotioations: The Navette System in France. In: British Journal of Political Science. 25, pp. 101-129.

    Web links

    Commons : French Senate  album with pictures, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. Article 24 of the Constitution of October 4, 1958
    2. Les réformes du Sénat. In: Direction de l'information légale et administrative, August 26, 2014, accessed on December 16, 2016 (French).
    3. a b Triumph for France's left, defeat for Sarkozy. on: Spiegel online. September 25, 2011.
    9. Code électoral : Article LO294, LO319 and LO322ff
    10. Code électoral : Article LO295, LO320 and LO322ff
    11. ^ France: President can be removed from office in future. In: Der Tagesspiegel . February 19, 2007.
    12. ^ Victoire historique de la gauche au Sénat. Le, 25 September 2011, accessed 25 September 2011 (French).
    13. Conservative parties win a majority in the French Senate., September 28, 2014, accessed on September 28, 2014
    This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 20, 2006 in this version .