France’s left-wing opposition has won control of the upper house of parliament in a big blow to Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The Socialists and other candidates on the left are celebrating an historic victory, gaining an absolute majority in the Senate for the first time since 1958.
Senate Speaker Gerard Larcher from Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party, acknowledged a real push from the left, saying it was stronger than he had expected.
The Senate is chosen by elected representatives rather than the public. However, Socialist Francois Hollande, widely expected to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy next April, described the result as a serious, even critical, defeat for his rival.
“After this historic Senate election, the presidential election could also be historic,” he predicted.
Losing the Senate is unlikely to derail Sarkozy’s expected bid to stand for a second term as head of state, but a rough ride lies ahead with opinion polls suggesting the Socialist opposition could defeat him.