France is voting to fill half of its Senate seats in indirect elections that could see the upper house of parliament swing to the left for the first time in more than a half-century. Such an outcome to Sunday's voting would deal a blow to conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy seven months before presidential elections. Sarkozy has long been haunted by a low popularity rating.
The Socialists are hoping that discontent in towns and regions around France can translate into victory as 71,890 delegates, mainly from municipal and regional councils, cast ballots for the 170 seats to be filled.
The left needs to win 23 seats from conservatives to gain a majority in the Senate, held by the right since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958.