During this period of celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Constitution, which will take place on October 4, the Senate, one of the oldest institutions in our constitutional history, has just been partially renewed, confirming its eternally conservative orientation.
If this was its name when it appeared in the Constitution of the year VIII (December 13, 1799), qualified by title II “Of the conservative Senate”, it was not a political characteristic, but a constitutional one. , because he was then responsible for “preserving” the Constitution, that is to say, ensuring that it was respected. It was thus to constitute a counter-power, however strongly limited by the power of the First Consul, then the Emperor.
A real counter-power
Today, the Senate of the Fifth Republic plays a major role in the balance of powers of our regime, establishing it as an essential counter-power. Indeed, the strong administrative and political centralization of the regime, a legacy of Jacobinism for one and the result of the majority fact for the other, requires that a second parliamentary assembly, representing local authorities, be able to limit majority policy. , without hindering it. This is the role it assumes, the Senate never saying “no” out of dogmatism and never “yes” out of discipline, according to the formula of its current president.
Its vigilance mission, exercised during the Benalla affair or during the health crisis, testifies to the particular need for this second chamber, endowed with significant powers, able to slow down, or even prevent, the presidential majority.
However, the method of appointing senators prevents it from experiencing the slightest alternation – and the period 2011-2014 does not constitute one, because, if there was indeed a left-wing president on the “plateau” (Jean- Pierre Bel), the majority group was always that of the conservative right (then embodied by the UMP) and this election was due to a convergence of opposition to the then outgoing President of the Republic, in the perspective of the presidential election being held some months later.
The Senate is today elected by an electoral college made up of more than 95% of municipal delegates, therefore from the municipalities, whether it is the mayor alone, a few municipal councilors or the entire municipal council. In the largest municipalities, which have more than 30,000 inhabitants, additional municipal delegates are designated, at the rate of one delegate per 800 inhabitants.
Major role of municipalities
In France, sparsely populated municipalities are clearly in the majority: more than half have fewer than 500 inhabitants, around 29,000 have fewer than 2,000 inhabitants and only 1% of municipalities have more than 30,000 inhabitants. But the latter correspond to 35% of the French population.
The consequence for the senatorial elections is that small municipalities (less than 9,000 inhabitants) represent more than two thirds of the senatorial electoral college, while they correspond to less than half of the population. However, they are essentially present in a rural, conservative environment: the senatorial electoral college is thus largely composed of municipal delegates with a center-right political affinity.
It is necessary to remedy this, in order to silence criticism and preserve the Senate, by fundamentally changing its method of appointment, to make it a democratic institution, representing local authorities.
Change the election
This is easily achievable by providing that part of the senators (around half) be elected by the councils of regions, departments and municipalities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (there are 42): within them, an advisor would thus be designated to sit in the Senate. The other half of the senators would be elected by all the municipal councilors of each region, grouped into three categories: councilors of municipalities with less than 1,000 inhabitants, from 1,000 to 9,999 inhabitants and from 10,000 to 100,000 inhabitants. . Each category would respectively elect one, two and four senators in each region.
The Senate would continue to represent the populations of local authorities, but by offering less representation to small municipalities. In addition, the link with local authorities would be strengthened, since half of the senators would come directly from the deliberative assemblies of certain communities and would continue to sit there. Furthermore, their legitimacy would also be more direct because it would be possible to identify, during local elections, who would be called, in the event of victory, to sit in the Senate (as is the case of the mayor, for example).
The legitimacy of the entire Senate and its link with all local authorities would itself be strengthened, especially since alternation would be easier, reinforcing the democratic character of this parliamentary assembly.