French far-right overtakes Macron in EU parliament election poll

In a YouGov poll published last week, Macron’s popularity fell to its lowest level since his 2017 election, with only 21% of those polled saying they were satisfied with him. (AFP pic)

PARIS: 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 showed the centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) with 19% of voting intentions compared to 20% at the end of August, while far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s RN — formerly the National Front — rose to 21% from 17% previously.

Together with the 7% score of sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and 1% each for “Frexit” parties led by former Le Pen associate Florian Philippot and Francois Asselineau, far-right parties won a combined 30% of voting intentions, up from 25% 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 Laurent Wauquiez slipped two percentage points to 13%, while the far-left France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon fell from 14 to 11%.

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, Macron and Le Pen’s parties were neck-and-neck at around 21%, while the conservative Les Republicains came third with 14% and Melenchon’s France Insoumise fourth with 12.5%.

In an Ifop poll in May, the LREM was seen winning 27% of the EU parliament vote, well ahead of the far right’s 17% and more than Macron’s 24% 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 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, Macron’s popularity fell to its lowest level since his 2017 election, with only 21% of those polled saying they were satisfied with him.

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.