to elect the French Senate, the upper house. Half of the approximately 700 senators are up for election today, in a first past the post system with two rounds of voting, as most elections are in France. The difference is that it is not the general electorate voting today but an electoral college ("les grands electeurs") which is voting. This is composed, in proportion with the size of the constituencies and cantons, of delegates who are mainly local councillors. That system tends to produce a Senate which is to the left of the National Assembly. In Alsace, where I live, the right is strong, and the Front National does pretty well too, but our senator, Roland Ries, is Parti Socialiste. The Senate is expected to be dominated by the Left in this election for the first time in its history. As it has a scrutiny role in legislation, this is important. A number of elderly senators, most of them in their 80s, are retiring at this election, including such luminaries as Robert Badinter, whom I heard speak in Strasbourg last year and was impressed by. He is remembered for the abolition of the death penalty, 30 years ago this week. No more Madame La Guillotine.
In other news from French politics, Segolene Royal has said that if elected president she would close down the nuclear power stations. Silly cow. France is so dependent on nuclear the lights would go out. There are personal smear attacks (from within the Parti Socialiste of course) against Martine Aubry - she is a drinker, her husband (an immigration lawyer) is corrupt, and so on. Always happens. I would have voted DSK if I could (and still would) but Martine would make a terrific President.