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Conservatives dominate French Senate election in blow to president's party

French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party suffered its first electoral blow on Sunday as rival conservatives dominated the Senate election.

The results damage Mr Macron's legitimacy as he embarks on pushing through unpopular changes to French labour law and other reforms he hopes will reinvigorate the country's economy.

Mr Macron could still pass his reforms despite the election result because the lower house of Parliament has the final say in legislation over the Senate and because lawmakers from the conservative Republicans party support many of his pro-business policy plans.

Partial results from the Interior Ministry showed the Republicans on track to keep their majority in the Senate after Sunday's vote for about half of its 348 seats.

French broadcasters' projections forecast the Republicans as having between 146 and 156 seats in the new Senate, up from 142.

Francois Patriat of Mr Macron's Republic on the Move! party said it was expected to win between 20 and 30 seats - far less than the 50 it was aiming for.

The result is a big blow after the party won a large majority in the June election for the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

"I wouldn't say it's a success," Mr Patriat said on BFM television about Sunday's result.

It is the first time Mr Macron's party has competed in France's Senate election since he created it to attract voters tired of the status quo.

It is now likely to seek alliances in the Senate with other centrists and moderate Republicans and Socialists.

Senators are not chosen by the public but by some 75,000 elected officials - mayors, legislators, regional and local councillors - across the country.

The Senate voting system tends to give an advantage to local politicians from traditional parties instead of candidates of Mr Macron's party, many of whom are political newcomers.

Many local officials are also upset by Mr Macron's plan to slash the budgets of local authorities.

The election comes as his popularity is on the wane just four months into his presidency.

Tens of thousands of people protested on Saturday in Paris over labour law changes they fear are dismantling the French way of life - and more protests and strikes are ahead.

Truckers plan to blockade streets and fuel depots on Monday.

Mr Macron insists the labour law changes - which reduce union powers and give companies more freedom to lay off workers - are need to create jobs and compete globally.

The lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, has the final say in French lawmaking but Mr Macron also needs broad support in the Senate to follow through on other major changes he has promised, notably to unemployment benefits, the pension system and the French Constitution.

AP

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