Somalia To Hold Elections Within 60 Days

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa.

 

Somalia’s government announced on Thursday that delayed elections would be held within 60 days, following months of deadlock over the vote that erupted into violence in the troubled country.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and state leaders had been unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

The political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house of parliament extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu.

Under pressure the president, better known as Farmajo, reversed the mandate extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the leaders of Somalia’s five states to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.

“About the schedule of elections, the national consultative forum agreed that elections will be held within 60 days,” said deputy information minister Abdirahman Yusuf at the conclusion of five days of negotiations in the capital.

The exact dates for parliamentary and presidential elections would be determined by the electoral board, he added.

“It is a historic day,” said Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, whose office will take charge of overseeing the electoral process.

Farmajo thanked the various parties for compromising, declaring the outcome “a victory for Somali people everywhere”.

Somalia’s foreign partners — including key backers who threatened sanctions if polls were not quickly held — also welcomed the breakthrough.

“We now urge all stakeholders to move forward swiftly to organize inclusive and transparent elections without delay,” read a statement issued by the UN signed by the US, Britain, EU and other western and regional powers.

Somalia’s elections follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

The United Nations has described a one-person, one-vote election as essential for Somalia’s democratisation but the milestone has eluded the fragile country for half a century.

Successive presidents have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and a violent insurgency by the Al-Shabaab militant group has prevented such an exercise.

– Distrust –

Farmajo and the states agreed in September on a path to elections, again abandoning universal franchise for the indirect model, but increasing the number of delegates to make the process more inclusive.

But distrust over key appointments to crucial election committees, fears of rigging, and concerns about securing the vote itself, scuttled the plan.

Months of UN-backed negotiations failed to get the timetable back on track, with the crisis culminating in parliament approving the mandate extensions despite opposition from the Senate and the states.

The crisis stoked fears of outright civil war as soldiers deserted their posts in the countryside to fight for their political allegiances in the capital.

At least three people died in the clashes, with government losing control of key parts of Mogadishu as roads were sandbagged and fighters with machine guns watched key junctions.

The fighting drove tens of thousands of people from their homes, as the international community called for a ceasefire and urged the warring sides to again come to the table.

Opposition forces withdrew in early May after Roble assured the political opposition that their concerns would be heard.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

The Horn of Africa country still faces a violent insurgency from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group, which controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops.

AFP

Free, Fair Election Is Great Concern, Our Position Of Non-Interference Remains Same – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the government’s commitment to free and fair elections will be followed through in future elections,

He said that the bedrock of democracy remains sustenance of the multi-party structure, with trust from citizens.

In an interactive session with some Nigerians in Paris, France, on Wednesday, the President noted that results from elections since he assumed office had been a mixed bag, with the people’s choice playing out, promising to keep the template that had brought more credibility to the electoral process.

President Muhammadu Buhari addresses Nigerians living in France

 

“Free and fair election is a great concern. In the last elections, our party lost in some elections and it reflects our position of non-interference.

“Normally those in power will win by hook or by crook. We believe in free and fair elections. I have respect for Nigerians to choose their leaders. We have shown we respect our citizens by allowing them to choose their leaders.

“We gave instructions to security to deal with anyone who uses thugs to disrupt electoral processes. What I can assure you is that you can walk about and around with your head raised high that this administration is committed to a multi-party system,’’ he said.

President Buhari said he had watched Nigerians spend long hours in campaigns listening to candidates since 2003, 2007, 2011, when he contested elections and lost, and the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, which he won.

 

“Nigerians deserve respect. I have suffered before, so I know what it means. My duty is to serve Nigeria and Nigerians with all my heart. I assure you that in spite of the ill-luck, with drop-in resources, we will do our best,’’ he added.

The President said investments had been channeled into the agricultural sector, with visible results, explaining that the policy on border closure to neighbouring countries was to protect the economy and improve security.

“The future of Nigeria is in agriculture,’’ he noted.

On security, President Buhari said all the service chiefs were changed in order to inject new energy and ideas into protecting the country, adding that the security chiefs were also given clear targets and timelines.

“We will educate people to develop our country. Our greatest resources are our people and educating them is a priority,’’ the President added.

In his remarks, Nigerian Ambassador to France, Kayode Ibrahim Laro, appreciated the President for always creating time to interact with Nigerians, describing him as the “most friendly President to Nigerians in diaspora’’.

At the meeting, Nigerians in Paris raised issues with the President on security, voting in elections, economy and education.

Osinbajo Has Not Declared Interest In 2023 Presidential Race – Aide

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

 

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has not yet declared interest to run for the 2023 presidential election.

This is according to his media aide, Laolu Akande, who disclosed this via a statement issued on Monday.

“Prof. Osinbajo has not declared any interest whatsoever in the 2023 election, but he is rather focused on working in his capacity as Vice President in the current administration to address all the compelling issues in the country and concerns of Nigerians, including finding effective and lasting solutions to the security challenges,” he said.

“Therefore, we ask that people desist from such unhelpful permutations while we all deal together with the challenges confronting us as Nigerians, and resolve them for the benefit of our people, peace, and prosperity in the land.”

Akande’s reaction followed a volunteer group mobilising support for Osinbajo ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

The vice president’s spokesman said Osinbajo “is not in any way connected to this website or the group behind it and considers such an enterprise an unnecessary distraction.”

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Osinbajo is one of the politicians rumoured to be nursing a presidential ambition as Nigerians gear up for the next election cycle which is about two years from now.

The vice president, a lecturer and pastor, was a running mate to the then APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

President Buhari will complete his constitutionally permissible two terms of eight years in office in 2023.

The APC will likely hand its presidential ticket to the south of Nigeria–a region where Osinbajo and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu come from.

Electoral Offences: 125 Cases In Court, 60 Convictions Made In Six Years – INEC

A file photo of a bag containing electoral materials to be deployed for an election.

 

Since the 2015 general elections in the country, 125 cases of electoral offences were filed in various courts out of which 60 convictions have been secured so far, including the most recent one in Akwa Ibom State.

This is according to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this on Wednesday during a one-day public hearing on the National Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill 2021, organized by the Senate Committee on INEC.

“Of the numerous responsibilities carried out by the Commission, the prosecution of electoral offenders has been one of the most challenging,” he said.

READ ALSO: Bill To Create Special Seats For Women In NASS, State Assemblies Scale Second Reading

“For instance, since the 2015 General Election, 125 cases of electoral offences were filed in various courts out of which 60 convictions have been secured so far, including the most recent one in Akwa Ibom State.”

He also expressed disappointment over the delay in the passage of the Electoral Act amendment bill, saying barely a year and nine months to the 2023 general election, the National Assembly is yet to pass the bill.

According to the INEC boss, the prosecution of electoral offenders has been one of the most challenging tasks for the commission since its establishment.

Yakubu added, “The commission would like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of election results but most importantly their sponsors.

“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including party chieftains and candidates that seek to benefit from violations of the law, are apprehended. We believe that the work of the proposed Commission will help in this regard,” Yakubu said.

There Won’t Be Elections In 2023 If We Don’t Sort Out Security – Ex-DSS Official

 

A former Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mike Ejiofor has warned that the 2023 general elections would not hold over the worsening security situation in the country.

Speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday, Ejiofor asked the Federal Government to urgently tackle insecurity head-on.

“If we don’t get these things right before 2023 elections, if we don’t get these things sorted out the various security challenges in the various geopolitical zones, I can assure you that there won’t be elections,” he said.

“There will be a crisis in this country, there will be anarchy. We need to sort out this thing before 2023.

“Let us talk about this country before talking about elections. If we continue like this, there won’t be elections in 2023 because of series of agitations.”

A former Director of the Department of State Service (DSS), Mike Ejiofor speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

 

Amid the serial security challenges facing the country, Ejiofor backed several calls for restructuring, saying the move would help solve the various national issues.

READ ALSO: FG To Recruit Fresh Soldiers Soon Over Insurgency, Banditry

The security official also faulted a situation whereby states would converge at Abuja on a monthly basis to collect allocation, adding that if governments look inward, the states can survive without the periodic revenue.

He also reacted to the controversy trailing the past extremist religious views of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

Pantami had for the first time acknowledged his past views but noted that he has since renounced those radical assertions.

The Minister said the past radical ideas he was championing were due to age, immaturity, and limited knowledge. This excuse however has not calmed the Twitter storm which is threatening to sweep him from office.

But Ejiofor said there is no way the DSS wouldn’t have done a thorough check before his appointment as Minister in 2015.

He recalled that the secret service had prompted the Senate via a report which barred the National Assembly from confirming the appointment of a former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

“I am not the spokesperson of the SSS but I can tell you that it would be difficult for that information to have passed the State Security Service.

“They must have it on record of his sympathy for Al-Qaeda and some of these terrorist organisations. If the State Security Service submits a report on an individual to government and government fails to act on it, who is to blame?” he questioned.

 

‘Ballot Not Courts Should Decide Election Winners’, Jonathan Pushes For Reforms

 

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has advocated the need for legislation that will prevent the courts from declaring a winner in an election.

Speaking with journalists on Monday in Abuja, Jonathan insisted that the situation where the judiciary is allowed to declare winners in an election, because of electoral fraud should not be abhorred, as it is undemocratic.

He explained that the ballot papers should be the only means of choosing political leaders, adding that when a politician or the electoral system is found wanting, the courts should only be made to order for a re-run and not to declare a winner.

“Ballot papers should be the basis of selecting political officeholders. If it is the judiciary that should select them then we are not yet there,” Jonathan said.

“I am not saying the judiciary is not doing well but our laws should suppress the idea of our judiciary returning candidates. The ballots should decide who occupies the councillorship seat up to the presidency; that is democracy.”

A photo combination of former President Goodluck Jonathan and a ballot box.

 

While lamenting a situation whereby politicians use gifts to sway voters during the electoral process, the ex-President called for punitive measures against those who indulged in the unwholesome act.

READ ALSO: Criminals Are Feeling Heat Of NIN-SIM Verification Exercise – Pantami

He noted that in Nigeria where politicians induced voters with money and foodstuff on election day, such action is a criminal offence in other African countries.

“The problem we have in Nigeria is the use of money to induce some voters. Compared to other African countries, we spend too much money here. Probably, we need to review our laws because I have observed a number of elections in African countries.

“Here, if somebody is contesting elections, you buy bags of rice, wrappers, and all manner of items to induce the electorates. Ordinarily, our electoral laws are supposed to frown on such practices.

“If you do that, you are supposed to be disqualified from contesting in the election. So these are the things that make our elections expensive. I think if the young people are willing, things should begin to change.

“For instance in Tanzania, a candidate does not need to print his name on matchbox or any items to woo voters. If you do that, they say that you are inducing the electorates. It is against their laws,” he added.

Biden, Trump To Campaign In Georgia On Eve Of Crucial Senate Elections

JIM WATSON, SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will be holding dueling campaign rallies in Georgia on Monday, the eve of a pair of crucial Senate runoff elections in the southern state.

Biden, 78, announced on Wednesday that he would travel to the Georgia capital Atlanta to campaign for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Trump, 74, had previously announced that he would be in the town of Dalton on Monday night for a rally in support of the Republican candidates, incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Tuesday’s runoff election featuring Ossoff against Perdue and Warnock against Loeffler will determine which party has control of the Senate.

Both races are tight with polls showing the candidates neck and neck.

Republicans currently hold 50 seats in the Senate and a victory in just one of the Georgia races will give them a majority and the ability to hamstring Biden’s agenda after he takes office on January 20.

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If Democrats win the two Senate seats they will also have 50 seats plus a vice president, Kamala Harris, who can cast tie-breaking votes.

Harris is to visit the Georgia city of Savannah on Sunday to campaign for Ossoff and Warnock.

Georgia has been reliably Republican but Biden narrowly defeated Trump there in the November 3 presidential election, becoming the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Niger Republic Holds Elections

A Nigerien soldier stands next to ballot boxes before Niger’s presidential and legislatives voting materials distribution in Niamey, Niger, on December 26, 2020. Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Voters in the Sahel state of Niger go to the polls on Sunday for an election that could seal the country’s first-ever peaceful handover between elected presidents, despite a bloody jihadist insurgency.

The West African country has been chronically unstable since gaining independence from France 60 years ago and is ranked the world’s poorest country according to the UN’s Human Development Index.

Around 7.4 million people are registered to vote for the ballot for the presidency, which coincides with legislative elections.

President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country’s last coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.

The frontrunner in the 30-strong field is his designated successor, Mohamed Bazoum, 60, a former interior and foreign minister.

Other prominent hopefuls are two former heads of state, Mahamane Ousmane, 70, and Salou Djibo, 55.

Bazoum’s main rival, former prime minister Hama Amadou, 70, was last month barred from contesting the vote on the grounds that in 2017 he was handed a 12-month term for alleged baby trafficking — a charge he says was bogus.

Campaigning has been overshadowed by the issue of security.

Niger is being battered by jihadists on two fronts — on its southwestern border with Mali, and its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.

Four thousand people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger died last year from jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed stirred by Islamists, according to the UN.

In Niger itself, hundreds have died in the past five years, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

The economy, already fragile, has suffered devastating blows.

Around 42 percent of the population lived last year on under $1.90 (1.56 euros) per day, according to the World Bank, while nearly a fifth of its surging population of 23 million relied on food aid.

On Monday, seven troops and 11 suspected jihadists died in an ambush in the southwestern region of Tillaberi, the government said on Thursday.

On December 12, 34 villagers were massacred in Toumour, in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the eve of municipal and regional elections that had been repeatedly delayed because of poor security.

The army has been massively deployed for Sunday’s vote, the authorities say.

“Sporadic attacks will not prevent the stage of the elections,” a spokesman said on Thursday. The attack in Toumour triggered a three-day period of national mourning, but the elections the following day went ahead smoothly, officials say.

AFP

Russia, Rwanda Send Troops To Central Africa Republic After Alleged Coup Bid

(Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

 

The Central African Republic said Monday that Russia and Rwanda had sent in hundreds of troops after an alleged attempted coup ahead of upcoming elections.

The government in CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, accused former president Francois Bozize on Saturday of fomenting a would-be putsch by three rebel groups.

The groups on Friday started to advance on the capital Bangui along key highways after declaring an alliance, the government said. The UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA announced on Sunday that the rebels had been stopped or pushed back and the situation was “under control”.

“Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” under a bilateral cooperation agreement, government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui said.

“The Rwandans have also sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting.”

Rwanda’s defence ministry confirmed the deployment.

It said the move was in response to the targeting of its troops in the 11,500-strong MINUSCA by rebels supported by Bozize, who ruled the CAR from 2003 to 2013.

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No details were given about the deployment, but the ministry said it would “also contribute to ensure a peaceful and secure general elections scheduled on Sunday”.

MINUSCA’s Rwandan contingent is notably in charge of the security of CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the presidential palace.

– Russian role –

There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow about the Russian deployment although the Kremlin said the situation in the country was of “serious concern”.

Moscow has been leading a vast diplomatic and financial offensive in the former French colony since 2018 in return for concessions to Russian firms to exploit minerals, particularly gold and diamonds.

Private security guards employed by Russian companies also provide protection for Touadera and are involved in training of local armed forces.

The alleged coup was mounted by three of the country’s most powerful militias.

They said they had merged into a single entity called “the Coalition for Patriots for Change” and invited all other groups to join.

MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said late Sunday they had been pushed back in several locations or blocked, and “the situation is under control.”

But security and humanitarian sources said some members of the armed groups were still on the ground around Bossembele, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Bangui.

The so-called G5+ group — France, Russia, the US, the EU and the World Bank — urged Bozize and allied armed groups to lay down their arms and called for Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections to go ahead.

A source at the French presidency said the priority “in the coming days is to stick to the date” for the elections and avoid fuelling dangerous uncertainty.

The source refused to comment on the dispatch of Russian and Rwandan troops, saying only that MINUSCA “has successfully carried out its mission in the last few days.”

– Shadow of Bozize –

Bozize, 74, who denies the coup plot allegations, has been a major figure in the country’s decades-long history of war and misery.

He slipped back into the country in December 2019 after years in exile, sparking fears of a comeback.

He retains a large following, especially among the Gbaya ethnic group, the country’s largest, and has many supporters in the army.

The former general came to power in a coup in 2003 before he himself was overthrown in 2013 by the Seleka, a rebel coalition drawn largely from the Muslim majority.

Christian and animist groups forged a so-called self-defence force called the anti-Balaka, and the country spiralled into conflict along largely sectarian lines before France intervened militarily.

After a transitional period, elections were staged in 2016 and won by Touadera.

Bozize has been barred from contesting the next elections by the CAR’s top court as he is the target of a 2014 arrest warrant for alleged murder and torture and is under UN sanctions.

– Weak government –

His absence from the poll has left Touadera the clear frontrunner in the 17-strong field of candidates.

But his government holds sway over only around a third of the CAR’s territory.

The rest is in the hands of militia groups that typically claim to defend the interests of a given ethnic group, and often fight with each other over resources.

The CAR has known little stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

Thousands of people have died since the 2013 coup, and nearly a quarter of the population of 4.7 million have fled their homes.

AFP

Bye-Elections: Unscrupulous Persons Are Bent On Disrupting The Processes – INEC

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that some unscrupulous individuals are bent on disrupting some of the bye-elections conducted across eleven states of the country on Saturday, 5th December 2020.

In a communique on Sunday, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman,
Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said although the elections went generally well, some unscrupulous persons are still bent on disrupting the processes.

According to Mr Okoye, a number of the Commission’s staff were assaulted during the bye-elections.

“In some areas, the staff of the Commission were assaulted and materials destroyed, while in others there was resistance to the use of the Smart Card Readers.

“In yet other areas, Commission staff were prevented from deploying altogether. In fact, in one area in Lagos State, some people demanded for money from INEC staff before they would be allowed to deploy.

“These acts continue to reflect poorly on our country and denude the spirited efforts of the Commission to improve the electoral process under very difficult circumstances,” Okoye’s communique partly read.


READ ALSO: We Must Accept PDP’s Defeat With Dignity, Says Governor Bala Mohammed

Presidency Welcomes Bye-Election Results, Vows Not To Fail Nigerians


Okoye revealed that one consequence of the lingering problem of election disruption manifested in the declaration of the bye-election for Bakura State Constituency in Zamfara State inconclusive.

“The Returning Officer declared the result inconclusive in line with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections.

“The election for Bakura State Constituency became inconclusive because the 2,181-vote margin between the two leading candidates – those of the PDP (18,645 votes) and APC (16,464) – is less than the total number of registered voters in 14 Polling Units where elections were cancelled or not held, which stands at 11,429.

“Consequently, by the “margin of lead principle”, the election could not be declared and no winner was returned.

“Voting in the 14 affected Polling Units was marred by over-voting, abduction of staff of the Commission, violence, assault occasioning grievous hurt against INEC officials, burning of INEC materials and snatching and carting away of sensitive electoral materials, resistance to the use of smart cards readers and obstruction of the electoral process,” Okoye revealed.

The Commissioner further stated that the Commission met on Sunday, 6th December 2020 and decided to remobilize and conclude the elections on Wednesday, 9th December 2020.

He stressed that in order to ensure that the Supplementary Election is properly secured, the Commission is considering clustering the affected Polling Units to prevent the disruptions experienced on 5th December 2020.

According to the INEC spokesman, the details for the conclusion of the bye-election in Bakura will be worked out by the INEC State Office in Gusau after consultation with stakeholders.

Mr Okoye said the Commission has commiserated with staff who were assaulted and has also extended its deep condolences to the families of the six policemen who lost their lives when the boat in which they were escorting election staff and materials capsized in Bayelsa State.

The bye-elections on Saturday involved nine State House of Assembly seats and six Senatorial seats.

The results of all the House of Assembly seats have been declared, except for Bakura State Constituency in Zamfara State.

Also, the results of four Senatorial seats have been successfully declared and INEC hopes that the results of the other Senatorial seats would be declared soon.

The Commission through its spokesman assured that as has become part of its practice, the results of the elections will be available on the INEC website during the week.

 

 

 

 

The Commission warns all those who have no business with the conduct of the Supplementary Election to keep away from the 14 Polling Units as only election staff, security agencies, voters, accredited observers and media, as well as polling agents are entitled to be at the locations. The Commission is determined to conclude the election and will not condone further attacks on its staff and destruction of materials. We urge all the stakeholders to cooperate with the Commission for the successful conclusion of the Bakura State Constituency bye-election.

INEC Declares Zamfara Constituency Bye-Election Inconclusive

 

The bye-election conducted in Bakura constituency, Zamfara State has been declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Returning Officer, Professor Ibrahim Magawata told journalists that the election results of five polling units in Bakura ward have been cancelled.

The affected units according to Professor Magawata have a total number of 11,429 votes.

READ ALSO: INEC Declares APC’s Abiru Winner Of Lagos East Senatorial Election

He announced that the PDP candidate, Ibrahim Tudu scored a total number of 18,645 votes, while the APC candidate, Bello Dankande Gamji polled 16, 464.

New date for the conclusion of the election in the affected polling units would be announced later.

Meanwhile, two ad-hoc staff of the commission have been declared missing and their whereabouts still unknown at the time of filing in this report.

Macron Opponents Claim Victory In France Senate Poll

File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a press conference in Beirut on August 6, 2020, two days after a massive explosion devastated the Lebanese capital.  Thibault Camus / POOL / AFP.

 

The right-wing opposition on Monday claimed victory in elections for France’s upper house, underlining the political struggles of the centrist ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron.

The Senate’s members are not directly elected by voters, but instead by tens of thousands of local councillors who are themselves elected by the people.

After Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party performed woefully in local elections earlier this year, it was never expected to make any significant impact in the Senate vote.

While the chamber has some authority, especially over constitutional issues, it lacks the power of the National Assembly lower house, which has been controlled by LREM since 2017.

Nevertheless, the leader of the right-wing Republicans Christian Jacob told France Inter radio: “We have renewed ourselves with this victory.”

The party claimed to have upped its Senate seats by 10 to 154 in the 348-seat chamber.

The election showed that the opposition is not complacent, said Bruno Retailleau, head of the Republicans in the Senate.

However, because of the volatile nature of political affiliation in the Senate, the full breakdown will probably only become clear on Thursday when it meets to elect its speaker.

The poll — held every three years for half the chamber’s seats — was not a disaster for the LREM, which was expected to hold on to its current 23 members.

Meanwhile, the Greens said they expected to return at least 10 senators and the Socialist Party was expected to lose some seats but maintain its status as the second biggest faction.

But the health of LREM, and in particular its failure to put down roots at the local level, is a growing headache for Macron as he prepares to seek re-election in 2022.

Roughly two dozen MPs defected from LREM to other groups earlier this year, robbing the party of its overall majority, although the make-up of the National Assembly means it can still pass legislation.

AFP