On Sunday, June 9, the Parti socialiste (PS) of France lost two seats in the by-elections for the first and eighth constituencies of the National Assembly, both representing French citizens abroad. The Constitutional Council invalidated the earlier elections for the two seats, first held in May of 2012. The original winners of the seats, Corinne Narassiguin and Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou, were deemed ineligible to hold office for the space of one year.
In the first constituency, Frédéric Lefebvre of the Union for a Mouvement Populaire (UMP), the party of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and former Secretary of State for Trade and Tourism, was elected with 53.72% of the vote. In the eighth constituency, Meyer Habib of the Union des democrates et indépendents (UDI) beat the UMP candidate, Valérie Hoffenberg, with 53.5% of the vote.
These two electoral defeats bring the PS, the party of current President Hollande, to a slim majority in the National Assembly. The French National Assembly consists of 577 members in total, referred to as “deputies,” who are each elected for five-year terms. Though the National Assembly is considered the lower chamber of the French Parliament, it has more powers than the higher chamber, the Senate. It is the responsibility of both chambers in this bicameral legislature to discuss bills, but the Assembly has the last word on the passage of laws.
The loss of the seats in the first (America and Canada) and eighth (Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, San Marino, the Vatican, Turkey) brings the PS to a total of 292 seats in the National Assembly, a mere three seats above the 289 absolute majority. The risk of any further invalidation of elections is small, so the Socialist’s representation in the Assembly should not decline further during the current term.
The real danger for the PS rests in the upper house of the French Parliament, the Senate, where its majority is even narrower. A third of the Senate seats will be up for renewal in 2014, threatening the left’s period of three year majority in the Senate.