November 04, 2018
French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party leader Marine Le Pen attends questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, on Oct 16, 2018. Photo: REUTERS
PARIS (Reuters) – France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party jumped ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM for the first time in a poll of voting intentions for May 2019 European Parliament elections.
An Ifop poll published on Sunday (Nov 4) showed the centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) with 19 per cent of voting intentions compared to 20 per cent at the end of August, while far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s RN – formerly the National Front – rose to 21 per cent from 17 per cent previously.
Together with the seven per cent score of sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and one per cent each for “Frexit” parties led by former Le Pen associate Florian Philippot and Mr Francois Asselineau, far-right parties won a combined 30 per cent of voting intentions, up from 25 per cent end August.
The poll asked nearly 1,000 French people on Oct 30-31 who they would vote for if the European Parliament elections were to be held the next Sunday.
The conservative Les Republicains party led by Mr Laurent Wauquiez slipped two percentage points to 13 per cent, while the far-left France Insoumise led by Mr Jean-Luc Melenchon fell from 14 to 11 per cent.
Mr Melenchon was widely criticised and mocked after yelling at police officers during a raid of his party offices as part of an anti-corruption inquiry.
In an Odoxa-Dentsu poll released mid-September, Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen’s parties were neck-and-neck at around 21 per cent, while the conservative Les Republicains came third with 14 per cent and Mr Melenchon’s France Insoumise fourth with 12.5 per cent.
In an Ifop poll in May, the LREM was seen winning 27 per cent of the EU Parliament vote, well ahead of the far right’s 17 per cent and more than Mr Macron’s 24 per cent in the first round of France’s April 2017 presidential elections.
The European elections are shaping up to be a major battle between centrist, pro-EU parties like Mr Macron’s LREM and far-right formations that want to stop immigration and globalisation.
The European Parliament elections determine who leads the major EU institutions, including the European Commission, the bloc’s civil service, and are also important as a bellwether of sentiment among the EU’s 500 million people.
In a YouGov poll published last week, Mr Macron’s popularity fell to its lowest level since his 2017 election, with only 21 per cent of those polled saying they were satisfied with him.
Mr Macron’s reputation has been hit by the brusque departure of two high-profile ministers and a summer scandal over his bodyguard, while stubbornly high unemployment, high taxes and rising fuel prices add to a general feeling of discontent.