November 05, 2018
Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
This is the first time a poll suggests that Le Pen's party could actually win the European elections in France next year. The Ipsos poll has the Rassemblement National (RN) at 21% ahead of the En Marche/MoDem bloc with 19%, according to La Tribune. The RN increased its share by 4pp since the last poll in August, while En Marche lost 1pp. We still don't know yet whether this is an outlier or a trend, but it is an alarming data point and a reminder of what is at stake next May. The European elections have never been so fundamentally relevant.
By pitching his progressive forces against nationalists, Macron has set the scene for the European elections not only at the EU level but also at home. Marine Le Pen had nothing else to do but to enter this scene and play her role. With her advance in the polls she now threatens to get her revenge for being outsmarted by Macron in the second round of the French presidential elections last year.
Le Pen winning the European elections next year is not so unlikely. There is a certain Macron fatigue amongst voters, the economy and unemployment figures are not showing any signs of change. Higher taxes on diesel are hitting in particular those rural voters that have less affinity to Macron to begin with. And finally, Europe features lower as a priority among French voters, who might well use the elections next year to settle their accounts with Macron.
There will be a counter-wave too: all those who are disappointed or hold a grudge against Macron but will do everything to prevent the RN from coming first may now mobilise. It may not be as massive as the mobilisation in the run-off for the presidential election between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, but still it may be decisive. The question then is whether it will enough and whether Macron has what it takes to get his group to the finishing line. Macron's strategy is a massive gamble with unbalanced risks: his chances to win are still uncertain but the consequences if he loses are much more certain, as that would polarise the country even more. Macron's long march to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice may appeal to some of those lost voters, but it will still be a long march to win the European elections next May.