French President Emmanuel Macron has seen his popularity ratings plunge recently following months of crippling and sometimes violent demonstrations by anti-government Yellow Vest activists. The French President, who was elected with 66.1 per cent of the vote in May 2017, now has the approval of only 25 per cent of the population, according to a survey carried out by Odoxa and Dentsu Consulting for franceinfo and the Figaro newspaper. The so-called “gilets jaunes” protests, which started late last year, began as a movement against Mr Macron’s proposed fuel taxes.
However, the movement has become a wide-ranging anti-establishment platform, with plans to contend in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has publicly sympathised with the Yellow Vests and asked for their support.
Mrs Le Pen’s nationalist movement is currently poised to win the most French seats in May’s parliamentary vote, reflecting an EU-wide shift towards the populist right.
In November, Mrs Le Pen’s RN moved ahead of Mr Macron’s La Republique en marche (LREM) party for the first time in a poll of voting intentions for the May elections.
In 2018 book “Clean Brexit: Why Leaving the EU still makes sense”, authors and economists Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons claim that Mrs Le Pen might also have a chance to win the next presidential election in France, as her supporters are “determined and committed”.
Mr Halligan and Mr Lyons wrote: “From 2012 to 2016, under President François Hollande, the French economy grew by just 0.7 per cent a year, compared to 1.3 per cent in Germany and 2.1 per cent in the UK and US.
“Having never held elected office once, Macron must now tackle France’s deep-seated economic and social problems – including unemployment of 10 per cent, with youth unemployment at a shocking 25 per cent.
“Polling evidence taken immediately after the 2017 presidential contest suggests that almost 60 per cent of Macron’s voters chose him primarily to block Le Pen – with only a fifth saying the former investment banker spoke to their concerns.
“Le Pen’s supporters, in contrast, are committed and determined. Already, she has vowed to contest the next presidential election in 2022.”
The authors added that the electoral change could not only take France out of both the EU and the single currency but also destroy the bloc in its entirety.
They said: “Committed to taking France out of both the EU and the single currency, a Le Pen presidency could lead to ‘Frexit’, which, in turn, would surely mark the end of the broader European project.
“During the spring of 2017, as her support built, the gap between French and German ten-year sovereign bonds quadrupled to almost ninety basis points – a level not seen since the height of the euro crisis of late 2011 and early 2012.
“This spread fell sharply once Macron prevailed, but remained at around forty basis points, having averaged around ten basis points in 2016 and half that the year before.”