Senate (France)

The French Senate (Senate) is the upper house ( French chambre haute) of the French parliament next to the House of Commons (French chambre basse), the National Assembly . Senators are elected indirectly by approximately 150,000 members of parliament and local politicians. The number of voters in a region is dependent on the population, but not proportional to this: have rural areas in choosing relatively more votes than cities.

Senators are elected for six years. You are in the political system of France participated in legislation, but can be overruled in doubt by the National Assembly. The control rights of the government are not very pronounced: the Senate has the right to question them and to publish reports, but no formal sanctions.

The Senate in its present form is the result of the constitution of the Fifth French Republic , which is essentially the French president, strengthened and weakened the government and parliament. The government has a number of options for intervention in the internal procedures of the Senate. Since the Senate is the weaker of the two chambers, he is always target prominent criticism that its very existence is in question.

A constitutional amendment in 2001 allowed the Senate a little more autonomy, the term shortened from nine to six years and set the minimum age of 35 to 30 years down. Due to the rural electorate prevailed in the Senate since its formation in 1959 until the Senate election in 2011 always a bourgeois conservative majority. [1]

The French Senate (from the Jardin du Luxembourg)

The Senate meets in the Palais du Luxembourg in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris . For his watch the Republican Guard (‘s Republican Guard ) responsible. In front of the palace is the public park Jardin du Luxembourg , which is one of the most popular tourist areas of Paris. Both palace and park and Musee du Luxembourg owned the Senate.

From 1615 to 1620, built the palace is decorated in the tradition of the French Renaissance castles, but shows clear similarities with the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The plant closes around a small courtyard , inside the Palais precious equipped and housed in the library, among other paintings by Eugène Delacroix .

The palace itself was for Maria de ‘Medici built, but he lived only a few years before going before Cardinal Richelieu fled to the Netherlands. Other residents were Louis XVIII. , when he was not yet king, the Board of the French Revolution and Napoleon ., who had his seat here as consul During the French Revolution he served as a prison, in which inter alia Georges Danton was detained. Since the time of the First Empire, he serves as the seat of the French upper house. During World War II he was elected Hermann Goering as a Parisian residence.
Senators are elected as representatives of their departments. For the legend, see the list of departments.

Currently, the Senate of 348 senators (sénateurs).
Distribution of seats in the Senate after regional origin. Origin Seats
2004 2008 2011
Mainland France, including Corsica and the overseas départements 313 322 326
Caledonia 1 1 2
French Polynesia 1 2 2
Mayotte 2 2 2
Saint-Barthélemy 1 1
Saint-Martin 1 1
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon 1 1 1
Wallis and Futuna 1 1 1
French expatriates 12 12 12
Overall 331 343 348

The Senators are in accordance with Article 24 of the French Constitution, elected indirectly. At department level to meet each electoral colleges (collèges électoraux) About five percent of the electoral college occupy while deputies who represented the department at the national or subnational level. deputies of the National Assembly, members of the Regional Council (Conseil Régional) and the Members of the General Council (Conseil général) of the respective departments. The vast majority of voters, 95 percent, community representatives are appointed by their respective local councils. The number of representatives from each municipality depends on the size of the community, but is not proportional to this.

Sparsely populated regions are under-represented on this, heavily populated. 31% of the delegates representing 16% of the population who are from communities with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, only 7% of the delegates, however, that 15% of French people who come from cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Overall, more than half the electors represent only a third of the French. In addition, the electors are themselves also determined differently: in municipalities up to 9,000 inhabitants determines the majority of the community meeting all the electors, in larger communities is proportional representation – a process which in turn favors the majority party strongly in small communities. In addition, the electoral districts are not drawn periodically, so that the representation by 2004 still referred to the 1976 level and the population changes that have since been shown not considered.

Until 2004, every three years, one third was re-elected, so that the terms of office of senators overlapped only partially. The departments were divided in to three groups: Group A consisted of the department from having atomic numbers 1 to 33, Group B from the departments with points 34 to 66, and Group C of the department with the numbers 67th It chose only one group. This group then chose an election date to all senators in this group again.

With effect from September 2004, the electoral system changed in important ways: The legislature declined from nine to six years. As the three-year election cycle did not change, not a third since 2004, but half of the senators is elected again. The number of seats increased to 2011 in two steps: In 2008, the number of senators increased to 341, 2011, there will eventually be the 346th The elections are from 2008 was a year moved back to adapt it better to the election cycle at local and regional level. The senators who were elected in 2004 were partly chosen for nine and partially for six years. 2008, all senators were elected for six years. With these reforms, the Senate shall be firstly introduced more into active politics, on the other hand a change in demographics into account and the number of senators are again adjusted to the actual population in the departments.

In the electoral college in most departments is the Romanesque majority vote with two ballots and vote-splitting used by the department to determine their maximum three senators. That is, although parties may dial lists set up, the members of the Assembly can get there but choose individual candidates. A candidate is elected if he gets on the first ballot, more than half of the votes cast. In the second ballot, a simple majority. The electoral colleges of the 30 departments that provide four or more senators choose to proportional representation . The seats are in this department after the d’Hondt method distributed to the list. [2]

The twelve senators for French expatriates established by the Assembly of French people of foreign countries ( Assemblée des Français de l’étranger ). since 1982 are from the 172 members of this body voted 150 of the French expatriates in their respective consulates, 22 appointed by the Foreign Ministry. The twelve elected senators are there in other areas also members of the panel.

Senators occupy their positions six and nine years. You can no limit in run again. To stand for election to be, applicants must be at least in the Senate 30 years old (until 2004: 35). Not eligible to vote are some top government officials as Prefect (préfet) in their departments or regions , sub-prefects, judges, police and prosecutors to directors or department level by the government employed Inspectors General (Inspectors généraux).

Minister since 1972 and also directors of state enterprises or private companies that receive highly public contracts or subsidies, to be elected, but must then withdraw within a month of their duties or abandon the parliamentary post. The semi-presidential system of France here prevents a close intertwining of violence , which in purely parliamentary systems is common, such as Germany.

The electoral system favored senators who are in rural areas engaged municipally have. Often they do not have political offices at lower levels. 1993, for example 90% of all senators still had a local political office.

The composition was formerly relatively static. On average, changed every three years, more than one-sixth of the members. Due to the long term and the indirect election process is set to change the political landscape in the Senate has been slow. Often new senators are politicians already. A political career, such as ministers or deputy National Assembly, behind them and end their careers here Often Senators are elected, which failed in the previous elections for the National Assembly or the European Parliament. The average age of senators in 1999 at age 61 ten years above the average age in the National Assembly.

In September 2011, following the election time reductions were 170 of 348 seats for the election, which is almost half. Mirror-author Stefan Simons wrote:

“So unsuccessful French President Francois Mitterrand left since the battle for the Élysée was – at the grassroots level have Socialists, Communists and Greens reached new heights. Across the country, there is a reversal, on the one hand by a new generation, on the other hand is added, the growing bitterness of the mayors and local councils: they are losing influence in favor of the Prefectures, which are subject to Paris. While constantly new requirements are adopted, which are passed on to the town halls. This was reflected in the victory of the opposition in the municipal elections of 2008, the State election in 2010 and the regional elections in 2011. The gain of the left in the town halls and departments only changed the composition of the electoral college -. And now the Senate [1] ”

Status and Tasks

The Senate is part of the French legislature and therefore has responsibilities primarily in the legislation and in the control of the government . Often his responsibilities but designed for a more consultative nature and also depend on how the government interprets it. The political significance that can gain the Senate actually depends so heavily by the majority situation in the other French political institutions. While in times of cohabitation can support either the President or the National Assembly over the other, his role is usually limited to obstructive and prevention policy, when it stands in opposition to President and National Assembly. Include all three institutions on the same stock, it can best meet its originally intended role as an advisory body and moderating.

After the French Constitution , the Senate does not have the same rights as the National Assembly . The Senate may propose amendments to existing laws or introduce laws. To pass a bill, the Assembly and Senate must approve it in the base case, although the same wording. If there is a disagreement between the two chambers, the National Assembly may override the Senate. In addition, each 60 members of the Senate and National Assembly, the Constitutional Council ( Constitutional Council – the French Constitutional Court) the constitutionality of laws checked.

For understanding the French legislative process, it is important to know that the 1958 Constitution, the legislative competence of parliaments has severely restricted. It includes only a clearly defined set of issues where the parliaments are responsible, and all others are controlled by government regulation. If Parliament decides a law outside of these topics, the Constitutional prevent its execution.

The topics on which Parliament can act are:

public freedoms
Definition of crimes and offenses
Imposition of taxes
Budget law
National Defence
Local Freedoms
Right of ownership
Financing of Social Security (since 1996)

Practically, however, the government has so many possibilities to intervene in the legislative process that legislative proposals emanating from Parliament, are hardly ever adopted. The Government has, inter alia, the right to declare inadmissible bills that would either reduce public revenue or increase public spending. The government can also speed up the legislative process greatly. You can mark it as urgent legislation and thus delay the consultation time in Parliament as well as the possibilities of the method by Navettes (see below), drastically slow down . You can connect the proposed law in exceptional cases, with the vote of confidence. They used this means, the National Assembly within 24 hours to bring a censure motion (motion de censure), or the law is decided as automatically. And last but not least, the President also laws directly through a referendum can pass and bypass the Parliament quite.
ratio to the National Assembly: Navettes

Both houses must pass the bill in principle, the same words, before it can be given orally. The order in which the chambers with the law deal, is the remit of the government. Only work on the state budget, the Senate is basically in last place, and dealing with it until after the National Assembly decided on the draft of the government.

Because both chambers must pass a bill with exactly the same wording, so that it can enter into force, it is usually to several navettes (boat): The law goes with the changes from one chamber to the next, which then, however, can in turn bring changes to go back to the first chamber. If both houses of parliament passed the law in the same terms, the French president, the text of the law or parts of it still before Parliament for repeated counseling.

If agreement is not reached, the government adopted a mediation committee ( Commission Mixte Paritaire convened) of seven senators and seven members of the National Assembly. However, the government has not convened this committee, in practice, they can leave it to silt, a law between the two chambers. It also comes in the Conciliation Committee to agree, at the end of the National Assembly may decide the law even against the will of the Senate. Practically, this is, according to the political composition of the bodies, remains less than one percent of the law up to about six percent. Thus, the National Assembly has in fact the greater political weight in the legislative process, but only if the government allows it. An exception to constitutional amendments or laws in the area of ​​the state organization, in which the National Assembly can not agree to the Senate, they are both truly equal.

Legislative proposals may be submitted by the Government (projets de loi) or the two chambers of parliament (propositions de loi) are ( right of initiative ). The position of the Senate is thereby weakened that he can not compel the National Assembly, to advise his bills. Between 1959 and 1995, accordingly, only 112 of the total adopted 3522 French laws were introduced by the Senate. Both houses of Parliament, however, can alter the legislative proposals of the other chamber. In this way, the weakness of the Senate on the issue of legislative initiative is compensated at least partially. In the late 1990s, the Senate successfully brought about 2,000 amendments per year.

One of the main methods that the Senate has used to assert themselves, is his right, Laws of the Constitutional Council to an audit. Unlike in Germany, such an examination is possible only before the law is officially announced (preventive norm control). Since the constitutional amendment of 1974 to the Senate, not only has the right, but it is enough if 60 members of the National Assembly and 60 senators requesting abstract judicial ask the Constitutional Council. Since then, thus in effect the opposition the right to appeal to the constitutional court, and makes extensive use of it.
Constitutional amendments

The French Constitution provides for two possibilities for its change: on the one hand by a popular vote , the other by the Assembly of the French Parliament ( Le 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 is (reducing the presidential term from seven to five years) done any constitutional change by the legislative assembly. The President of the Senate also appoints three of the nine judges of the Constitutional Council, the French Constitutional Court.
Relationship to government

The Senate also has the task of the government’s control, this takes place in the debate on the government statement instead. The Senators may also submit oral and written questions to the government, which must answer this. The revised Constitution of 1995 such an oral question time is provided at least once a week. This means that every single senator can force the government to discuss a her uncomfortable topic publicly. Every year, the Senate also several reports on governance.

The Senate may committees convened to have extensive rights to obtain evidence and public questioning of witnesses. However, he can only look at what is not already being investigated by the judiciary, and the committee can not sit for more than six months.

Unlike the National Assembly, the Senate can not settle the government. Only the Prime Minister may issue in the Senate, the confidence set, but is not legally bound by its result. The President is the Parliament only deductible if the behavior “manifestly incompatible with his or her duties is” or if he was found guilty of high treason. [3] In contrast to the National Assembly, the Senate itself is not, however, be resolved by the President.

Should the President decide to dissolve the National Assembly or declare state of emergency, he must consult before the President of the Senate.
Organization of Members

The Senate sitting in front of the President of the Senate, which is after each partial election of the board, so every three years, re-elected. Notes, the Constitutional Council, that the French president due to illness, resignation or death may not exercise its business as it represents the President of the Senate, until a new president is elected. In the story it was so far in front twice, Alain Poher officiated in 1969 for the retired Charles de Gaulle and 1974 for the late Georges Pompidou .

Is currently President of the Senate since 1 October 2011 Jean-Pierre Bel (PS).
See also: List of Presidents of the French Senate
Role of the parties

Of electing the Senate favors parties that are strongly rooted in local politics in small communities. Since its inception had therefore long the bourgeois conservative camp clear majorities. In the 2000s, the projection of the bourgeois camp was weaker, because the political left at the local and regional elections since 2000 has recorded significant gains, and thus represented in the electoral college for the Senate was stronger. The process resulted in 2011 for the first in the history of the Senate, the left reached the absolute majority of seats.

Small parties reached in the Senate either, as the Communist Party and the Greens , only a fraction of the percentage of seats they hold in the National Assembly or, as the National Front , no.

Within the bourgeois camp, the dependence on a strong local presence also showed the fact that the municipal strongly rooted centrist parties in the Senate usually able to win a majority, while the centrally acting Gaullists presented to the President and the majority of the National Assembly, in the Senate, but in were the minority.

The bourgeois parties in the Senate but were even more fragmented than in the National Assembly. Groups such as the Independent Republicans (RI) or independent farmer compounds have long been able to play a significant role. The Parti radical valoisien (PRV), which formed a coalition in the National Assembly with the UMP is, in contrast, a faction in the Senate with its sister party the Parti radical de gauche , the otherwise rather draws the socialists. Only in recent years succeeded first Christian Democrat groups and later the Gaullists, the UMP to achieve a united conservative majority, while more centrist groups such as the Social Liberal Party lost votes.

The Senate is the individual Senator but in its rules a greater role than in the National Assembly, which is supported by the composition of the Members who have long been predominantly in political life and have no career plans more. The mood between the groups is so relaxed and less competitive as drawn by the National Assembly.
Rules of Procedure

The session will begin in 1995 on the first working day of October and ends on the last working day in June. The French president is convened at the request of the Government or the National Assembly an extraordinary meeting of the whole Parliament. Automatically enters the Senate together greatly if there were new elections, which were held after the dissolution of the National Assembly, or when the French president takes the special powers under Article 16 of the French Constitution to complete.

The agenda is set by the Conference of Presidents. The government under Article 48 of the Constitution, however, the right to change its agenda to the extent that they can draw their legislative proposals or other points of the agenda forward. Moreover, the government may even make amendments to documents and emphasize points can from the agenda that were not previously addressed in committees. Since the 1995 constitutional amendment, the Senate may make one meeting day of the month on their own and can circumvent a possible obstruction tactics of the government for certain acts. Also since 1995, at least one session a week is primarily devoted to the questions put by members of the government.

Originally allowed the Senate to its members great freedom. The speech was often unlimited duration, individual senators or committees could exploit their assigned competencies usually handle up across borders and senators had significant rights during the debate. Only when the opposition Senate began in the 1980s to use these rights more and more to government projects hindered by delaying tactics, the government managed to push through an amendment to the Rules of Procedure. The number and length of the contributions to the debate is now mostly restricted to proposals for legislative changes may be rejected faster and easier, the sitting president has also discipline since expanded rights, individual senators.
The current Senate

In the Senate, there are the following groups: The Groupe Socialiste, apparent (until 2011 only Groupe Socialiste) is mainly composed of members of the Socialist Party . The Greens , the long formed a common fraction of PS, are organized in January 2012 in a separate group. Groupe Union for a Popular Movement (abbreviated Groupe UMP) is mainly composed of the senators of the UMP . The Groupe de l’Union centriste et Republican (short Union centriste) united to 2007 senators, the liberal-centrist UDF feel they belong, they and their predecessors have long been the dominant majority party in the Senate, since the division of the party during the presidential election 2007 , especially the senators the form centriste Alliance , the Mouvement démocrate and the more conservative, pro-government Nouveau Centre the group. Groupe Communiste Républicain et citoyen (short: Groupe CRC) consists of members of the Parti communiste français and the Parti de Gauche . Groupe du Rassemblement Democratic and Social Européen (short Groupe RDSE) is in the tradition of the Parti radical and united long with the senators of the Parti radical de gauche and the Parti radical valoisien both parties, which have emerged from this, even though the two parties have differing attributed to political camps were. Meanwhile belonging Parti radical valoisien the Union centriste while other smaller parties have joined the RDSE. Many factions are in addition to partisan senators (apparent) and senators from smaller parties who have joined the group (Rattachés).

The deputies who belong to any political group, form an administrative unit, known as RASNAG (Réunion administration of Sénateurs ne figurant sur ​​la Liste d’aucun Groupe), which elects one delegate for the exercise of their rights.

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