November 4, 2018 / 5:37 AM / 12 days ago

French far-right overtakes Macron in EU parliament election poll

(This Nov. 4 story adds “anti-European Union” in paragraph 3)

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 29, 2018. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS

By Geert De Clercq

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has moved ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s Republique En Marche (LREM) party for the first time in a poll of voting intentions for the May 2019 European Parliament elections.

An Ifop poll published on Sunday showed Macron’s centrist movement with 19 percent of voting intentions compared to 20 percent in the last poll at the end of August, while far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s RN — formerly the National Front — rose to 21 percent from 17 percent previously.

Together with the seven percent score of sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and one percent each for “Frexit” parties led by former Le Pen associate Florian Philippot and Francois Asselineau, far-right and anti-European Union parties won a combined 30 percent of voting intentions, up from 25 percent at the end of August.

The poll, conducted on Oct. 30-31, asked nearly 1,000 French people 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 percent, while the far-left France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon fell from 14 to 11 percent.

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 percent, while the conservative Les Republicains came third with 14 percent and Melenchon’s France Insoumise fourth with 12.5 percent.

In an Ifop poll in May, the LREM was seen winning 27 percent of the EU parliament vote, well ahead of the far right’s 17 percent and more than Macron’s 24 percent 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 percent 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.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Helen Popper

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