The center-right Les Republicains party increased its majority in the French Senate during voting on Sunday in an election that also saw President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party perform relatively well.

Gerard Larcher, leader of Les Republicains, said his party’s performance was, under the circumstances, as strong as he could have hoped for.

“This election, in the current social, economic, and public-health context, brings comfort to the center-right majority,” he told reporters.

The Reuters news agency added that The Greens party also did well, making enough ground to ensure it will have a stronger voice in France’s upper house.

Senator Esther Benbassa from The Greens tweeted that the party can now officially form a political group within the Senate, after having won six seats in the election to take its total to 10.

But Macron and his La Republique en Marche party were, in a way, the biggest winners on the day because they avoided an embarrassing performance in voting for half of the Senate’s 348 seats, just 18 months ahead of a general election in which the public will select lawmakers for the more powerful National Assembly.

That vote will decide whether Macron, should he choose to stand, will continue to govern the nation.

The ruling party was only formed in the run-up to the 2017 presidential elections and has, at times, struggled in the absence of a long history to do well at the grassroots level, something that led some analysts to predict it might have been in line for a drubbing in the Senate voting, which was indirect and involved around 92,000 mayors and councilors from the regional, departmental, and municipal levels picking senators.

Not a major player

Macron’s party is not a major player in the Senate. It held on to seven of its 10 seats that were contested on Sunday, losing three. The party now has 20 seats in the upper house, which is down from the previous 23.

The French television network Public Senat, which focuses on news from the Senate, said Les Republicains, who now have 154 seats, 10 more than they had before Sunday’s vote, are in an even stronger position than they were in before.

Philippe Dallier, one of Les Republicains’ senators, told the broadcaster: “If we win seats it is because some are losing them: The Socialists, La Republique en Marche, the radicals.”

Ironically, Les Republicains tend to support Macron’s pro-business economic policies in the upper house, so they likely appeal to similar voters to those who back Macron, so a strong performance by the party is not all bad news for him.

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