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French far-right close in on Emmanuel Macron’s party as president's popularity sinks to record low

Far-right gaining on Mr Macron’s party ahead of European Parliament elections

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Thursday 06 September 2018 12:50 BST
Macron reacts to Trump's Paris decision: 'Make our planet great again'

The French far-right has been the main beneficiary of Emmanuel Macron’s continuing slide in popularity, as his approval rating hits a record low.

Just 23 per cent of the French public has a favourable rating of Mr Macron in September, down from 27 per cent last month, which was itself a record low, according to YouGov.

Neoliberal polices and an allegedly elitist attitude have earned the centrist president the nickname of “president of the rich” among his critics on both the left and right of French politics.

As a result, Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party, recently rebranded as National Rally, is now close to overtaking Mr Macron’s En Marche outfit in the polls.

The good news for the far-right comes just months ahead of European Parliament elections next year that will decide the course the EU takes for the next half decade.

Just 20 per cent of voters would vote for Mr Macron’s En Marche party in the elections, with 17 per cent for the far-right. Close behind are the centre-right Republicans, on 15 per cent, and on 14 per cent France Insoumise, the left-wing populist vehicle of firebrand socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Far behind are the Greens, on 7.5 per cent, and the defunct centre-left party, the Socialists, on 6 per cent. The voting intention poll was conducted by pollsters Ifop.

Mr Macron’s fading fortunes look like a blow to his ambitions of creating a new centrist group in the European Parliament, superseding the existing liberal bloc and owing its allegiance to him.

The Front National are, however, still down on the 2014 European Parliament elections, when they won nearly 25 per cent of the vote.

It remains to be seen if Mr Macron’s new even deeper unpopularity turns out to be a standard mid-term slide, or a permanent hit to his electoral chances.

The French president was elected on 24 per cent of the first preference vote, narrowly ahead of three other candidates on 19 per cent or above – and then won in a landslide in the second round when matched against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Since taking office Mr Macron has turned public opinion against him with a series of neoliberal policies, including liberalising labour laws at the expense of workers rights, and picking fights with trade unions in France’s state-owned sectors.

Last month, Mr Macron’s high-profile environment minister quit while live on radio, citing a lack of progress on superficially ambitious goals and suggesting he did not want to give the government cover for failure.

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