So the recent piece of good news is that the left has won a number of seats in the French Senate today. I am excited about this as the more seats the left wins, the more likely it is that full marriage equality will be passed here. Right now, the left can block any action taking by the right that they don't agree with. This is going to cause major problems for Sarkozy as it means that he can't just push through his political agenda like before. The National Assembly is still controlled by the right, meaning that they can say a lot of things, and take action, but most likely nothing will get through. One of the most interesting things about this, is that this is the first time this has happened in the Fifth Republic.
Now, the French system is a little more complicated than in the US. It's called the Fifth Republic because it's actually the Fifth Constitution under which France has run since the king was Forced to put an actual constitution in place in 1791, which officially made France a constitutional monarchy. The current constitution provides for a bicameral government, le Senat and l'Assemblée Nationale, with the Président serving as head of government. The actual election of representatives for the two houses is actually a bit complicated, as the Senate is actually elected by a system of mayors, and other government representatives. We'll just say it's above my pay grade and I'll ask you to look it up for more specifics.
Recently with the international economic crisis, Sarkozy has been under more pressure. His solutions have been very polarizing, and because of that there is a good chance that he will have problems getting reelected. He has ordered the closing of a number of post offices, as well as reductions in letter carriers. Considering the number of things that have to be done on paper in France, they're not big on online services here, this is a huge problem. Recently two people with whom Sarkozy has worked closely in the past, particularly Edouard Balladur and his 1995 presidential bid, have been accused of corruption in a scandal in Afghanistan. It's not impossible for him to win, but he has an uphill battle ahead of him.
The Socialist candidate is less clear, however. Before the recent scandal in New York with chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo, Dominique Strauss-Khan was a front runner for the Socialist candidate. He was formerly head of the International Monetary Fund. He still has more trouble in store for him with the recent attempted rape charges levied against him by author Tristane Bannon. The two front runners for this year are François Hollande and Martine Aubrey. Ségolène Royale, who successfully ran as the Socialist candidate in 2005, is also running but seems to be less popular this turn.
It's a lot to explain, but this is definitely an important day in the Cinquième République.