President of the Senate (France)

Article

July 5, 2022

The President of the Senate is the head of the Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament. He is the third personage of the State in the order of precedence, after the President of the Republic of which he ensures the interim if necessary, and the Prime Minister, and before the President of the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. As such, he has significant power of appointment. In the Senate, he presides over plenary sessions and can influence the legislative procedure. He chairs the office of the Senate and the Conference of Presidents, responsible for organizing legislative work. The presidency of the Senate is nicknamed "the plateau" (a word equivalent to the term "perch" to designate the presidency of the National Assembly). The current President of the Senate is Gérard Larcher.

Election

The President of the Senate is elected by all the senators after each partial renewal, namely every three years, from among the members of this assembly. The session is chaired by the oldest senator until the election of the new president, who takes office immediately and therefore chairs the rest of the session. An “age office”, composed of this dean and the six youngest senators, thus has the task of carrying out the vote by secret ballot at the podium. During his term of office, the President of the Senate is assisted in his task by 25 senators, appointed immediately after him. Together they form the office of the Senate.

Role and skills

The role of the president is to represent the Senate and to direct the debates of this assembly. He chairs the Conference of Presidents (which notably includes the presidents of political groups and committees), responsible for setting the agenda for plenary sessions. He must be consulted by the President of the Republic when the latter wishes to dissolve the National Assembly or implement exceptional powers (Article 16 of the Constitution). The President of the Senate assumes the interim in the event of the vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic (but without the right to resort to a referendum, to dissolve the National Assembly or to request a revision of the Constitution). This interim is then exercised until the investiture of the newly elected President of the Republic (Article 7 of the Constitution). This situation occurred twice: in 1969, after the resignation of Charles de Gaulle, and in 1974, after the death of Georges Pompidou; in both cases, the interim was provided by Alain Poher. During this interim, the President of the Senate is the first personage of the State in the protocol order. The President of the Senate appoints: three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council; two of the eight qualified personalities on the Superior Council of the Judiciary; two of the seven members of the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority; one of the seven members of the Rail Activities Regulatory Authority; one of the three qualified personalities of the Autorité des marchés financiers; three of the seven members of the Superior council of audio-visual; two of the nine members of the High Council for Education; one of the five commissioners of the Nuclear Safety Authority.

Order of protocol and order of presidential succession

The President of the Senate is sometimes presented as the second personage of the State after the President of the Republic. This error is due to a misinterpretation of Article 7 of the Constitution, which states that in the event of "vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic for any reason whatsoever" the President of the Senate "provisionally exercises the functions" of head of state. Thus, he is the first person in the order of presidential succession, which is not confused with the formal order. The confusion