Emmanuel Macron has been warned French voters could choose to use the European elections later this week to send a clear message of dissent against his leadership. The French President has been fending off criticism over his proposed reform plans, pushing opinion polls to register a fall in support for his Government ahead of the EU vote. French politics expert Sophie Pedder told Sky News on Wednesday: “Symbolically, these elections are hugely important because they’re the first mid-term test for him.
“He hasn’t had an election since he wasn’t elected president two years ago. So it’s the first chance for a protest vote against him.
“In the polls, he’s been running neck and neck with Marine Le Pen, whom he faced in the presidential elections two years ago so it’s pretty much a re-run of that.”
Ms Pedder, however, conceded the European elections will not have a “real term” impact on his leadership: “Symbolically it’s important. In real terms and in terms of domestic politics, it won’t shift the balance of power at all in Parliament.”
An interactive poll conducted on behalf of RTL radio, television channel TF1 and national newspaper Le Figaro, showed President Macron’s party poll at 22 percent.
READ MORE: Emmanuel Macron warns of ‘EXISTENTIAL THREAT’ ahead of European elections
The survey of 1,031 French adults carried out on May 17-18 suggested his main opponent Marine Le Pen would secure 24 percent of the vote with her far-right Rassemblement National (RN).
A separate survey by Ifop Fiducial published last week confirmed a rightward shift has swept Europe.
The poll of 2,765 people, conducted on May 13-16 for Paris Match, news channel CNews and Sud Radio, showed the RN winning the French vote with 24 percent, against Mr Macron’s République En Marche’s (REM) 23 percent.
The French President has been embroiled in a bitter struggle with the so-called Yellow Vests movement over the past few months amidst protests against his proposed reform package.
Mr Macron, who was elected in 2017 and was hailed as the EU poster boy, lost no time in launching a major overhaul of the labour code to ease hiring and firing rules. His plans also included setting a flat 30 percent tax capital to boost investment in businesses.
But despite him attempting to curb protests with offers of sweeteners such as benefits for the elderly, members of the Yellow Vests movement have continued to march across France in protest and caused millions of euros of damage as well as put Mr Macron’s future at risk.
Marine Le Pen last week warned French voters a potential victory at the European Parliament polls could push Mr Macron to exact his revenge on demonstrators.
Ms Le Pen told BMFTV: “The stakes mean that if Emmanuel Macron gets the most votes, not only will he speed up his policies – since he will feel legitimated to do so – but he could also even take revenge over the same period of humiliation inflicted on him by the Yellow Vests.
“I’ve come to tell them if you want to stop Emmanuel Macron’s policies, the policies you consider to be deeply unfair, then it is out of the question he gets the most votes for the European elections.”
French voters will be voting to select their newest members of the European Parliament on May 26 and the chances of Mr Macron winning their support with his pro-European agenda is shrinking fast.
RN is among a string of populist groups across Europe who are planning to join forces to establish a Eurosceptic bloc of MEPs in the EU parliament.
RN leader Marine Le Pen is a close ally of Italy’s eurosceptic interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.