Moderate Interest and Great Expectations: The View from Paris ahead of the European Elections

By Angeline Charbonnier, Public Affairs Director | Paris, France

In late February, Renaissance, President Macron’s party, announced that MEP Valérie Hayer would head the party’s list in the European elections on June 6-9. This long-awaited announcement brought weeks of political twists and turns to an end, marked by several reshuffles of Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s cabinet following the controversial appointment (and subsequent dismissal) of Amélie OudeaCastera as Education Minister.  

Likewise, the agricultural crisis in France – and across the EU – has rocked the government and is likely to set the tone and be a major campaign issue for the European elections. While recent announcements by PM Attal and Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Marc Fesneau, and union support, have managed to quell farmers, several pockets of resistance persist. To wit, President Macron’s inauguration speech at the annual Agriculture Fair, a ritual of French political life, and inaugurating the event per tradition, was met with violent reactions. 

The agricultural crisis has seen both Macron’s Renaissance and Marine Le Pen’s nationalist and right-wing populist party National Rally make several appeals to farmers. Renaissance in particular has made several promises including assistance for farmers’ income, defending food sovereignty at the European level, and strengthening controls during trade negotiations. The suspension of the ‘Ecophyto’ plan marks a significant setback in the government’s sustainable agricultural plans. In the meantime left-wing parties, which remain markedly fragmented in France, have failed to make their proposals heard and are currently absent from the debate. 

      1. Voting Intentions  

According to a survey conducted by Odoxa for Public Sénat and the regional daily press, the National Rally currently dominates the French political landscape with 30% of voting intentions. While Renaissance are the runners-up, following a 2-point drop the poll only found that 19% of voters intend to support them in June. 

On the left, the list led by the Socialist Party and Place Publique, headed by MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, has consolidated its dominant position with 11% of voting intentions, a 2-point increase since previous polling. Meanwhile, the Ecologists, represented by MEP Marie Toussaint, have experienced a significant increase with 8.5% of voting intentions, but remain 5 points below their 2019 results. 

       2. The French Electorate’s Expectations 

Perhaps more than ever, purchasing power and rising prices will be the two main issues for French voters on June 6-9. In its monthly EuroTrack barometer for “Les Echos” and Radio Classique, OpinionWay-Vae Solis reports that these two issues showed a strong increase – respectively +6 and +5 points – in January and occupy the top two positions, while security (-3) and immigration (-6) remain behind and are on the decline. 

Regarding economic actors, while demands vary across sectors, there is a growing sense of frustration against new regulations mandated by the green transition, deemed too drastic and even inconsistent at times. One of proposals part of the Green Deal package aimed to reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2030 – this text was rejected by the European Parliament in November. 

      3. The Candidates  

National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN) 

The RN launched its campaign by highlighting immigration as a central theme. Their strategy is divided into three categories: “green files,” “orange files,” and “red files,” with the aim of renegotiating European treaties. The appointment of the former director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, as number three on the RN list illustrates the party’s desire to attract high-ranking public figures. 

Renaissance (Rebirth, RE) 

After internal hesitations, Valérie Hayer, a sitting MEP from a rural background, was chosen to lead the list. She will have to maintain or improve the score of the presidential majority, currently surpassed by the RN in the polls, amid the ongoing agricultural crisis. 

The Ecologists (Europe Ecologistes Les Verts, EELV) 

Marie Toussaint, a jurist and key figure in the EELV party, has been designated as the party’s leader. Her task will be to repeat the success of 2019 by proposing an autonomous list and focusing on the fight against climate change. 

The Republicans (Les Républicains, LR) 

MEP François-Xavier Bellamy will lead LR’s list once again, representing France’s historic conservative faction, with the aim of performing better than in 2019. The party aims to surpass the results of smaller far-right parties such as Eric Zemmour’s Reconquète, whose list is being led by key figure Marion Maréchal. 

France Unbowed (La France Insoumise, LFI)  

MEP Manon Aubry, co-president of the radical left group in the European Parliament, will lead the LFI list. The party advocates a break with what it calls ‘liberal Europe’ and hopes to mobilise voters around an alternative vision for the bloc. 

Place Publique & Socialists (Place Publique, PP – Parti Socialiste, PS)  

MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, known for his commitment to human rights, will lead Place Publique’s list, which joint with the Socialists’. His main goal will be to surpass the party’s 2019 results with a social-democratic vision of Europe. 

French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Francais, PCF) 

Léon Deffontaines has been designated to lead the PCF’s autonomous list. With the aim of exceeding 5% of the votes, he hopes to reconquer the popular electorate with a campaign focused on communist values. 

      4. Abstention Perspectives: Moderate Interest in European Elections  

A survey by Elabe on February 10 reveals moderate interest in the European elections among the French electorate. Indeed, only 47% of those surveyed say they are interested, while 53% are not. Among those interested, 35% are somewhat interested and 12% very interested. Interest in these elections also varies according to demographic criteria: It is more pronounced among those aged 65+ (57%), residents of large urban areas (54%), executives (52%), and men (51%). Conversely, it is less pronounced among those under 65 (43%), residents of rural areas (39%), and workers.

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