France’s mainstream political parties are losing French voters on the road to the European Parliament seats. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

Vote 24

EU Elections: Will France abandon Macron for Le Pen?

As of writing, National Rally sits at 32 per cent support, with experts saying that it could soar as high as 46 per cent by voting day.


If recent polls are anything to go by, France’s mainstream political parties are losing voters in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in June.

The once-marginalised National Rally (RN) — made famous internationally by populist firebrand Marine Le Pen — is now well ahead of more mainstream contenders, with the group significantly outpolling French President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble! coalition.

As of writing, RN, led by hard-right MEP Jordan Bardella, sits at 32 per cent support, with experts saying that it could soar as high as 46 per cent by voting day.

In the current polling, the Greens and The Republicans meanwhile command a mere 6.5 per cent and 8 per cent of the vote respectively. Macron’s alliance does slightly better at 16 per cent, closely followed by the Socialist Party at 13 per cent.

According to experts, Macron’s Renaissance party could reach as low as 6 per cent of the vote on election night, followed by France’s hard-left populist party La France Insoumise 8 per cent. French traditional parties, Socialists and Republicans could only end up managing 4 per cent and 6 per cent respectively if trends continue.

The graphic upwards represents the 2019 EU results versus the 2024 prediction victory, not the current polling. For this article, we have excluded minor political parties and only selected France’s mainstream political parties and populist parties.

Comparing these figures to the 2019 election results reveals a stark contrast. Except for the hard-right populist RN and the hard-left populist La France Insoumise, all the other French mainstream parties are performing considerably worse than they did then.

Why are French citizens turning away from mainstream parties and embracing the hard-right?

Macron’s failed political gamble

French presidential election TV debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen on May 03, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

The growing ascendance of the RN can largely be attributed to Macron’s dividing up of a fragmented electoral landscape in France.

During his first presidential election in 2017, Macron appealed for national unity, invoking the so-called Republican pact — a form of cordon sanitaire — to prevent Marine Le Pen from winning the presidency.

This is similar to what had happened in 2002 when her father Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round of the presidential campaign against Jacques Chirac, where neutral voters were urged by the political left to “vote for the crook, not the fascist” to keep the right-winger out.

In 2022, Macron repeated the strategy — without any accusations of fascism — and wants to do so again during the EP elections.

“I know that many of our compatriots voted for me today, not to support the ideas I put forward, but to stand in the way of those of the extreme right,” he said in 2022.

In anticipation of the June vote, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, a member of Macron’s Renaissance party, will engage in a debate with Jordan Bardella, the President of the RN.

Macron may also engage the party’s talisman, Marine Le Pen, in a pre-election debate, although no solid arrangements to do so have been confirmed as of writing.

The President’s attempt to marginalise RN has had the unintended consequence of solidifying the pasty position as the primary opposition force in France, while also serving to normalise and mitigate controversies from the its past in the minds of the French population.

RN is now setting the tone for the EP elections campaign. Security, so-called national preference, and migration have been central themes in the public debates, all of which have been viewed as the “leitmotif” of Le Pen’s party for years.

Lack of political embodiment

President of Rassemblement National (RN) Jordan Bardella, delivers his New Year’s speech to the press on January 15, 2024, in Paris, France.

In France, the perception of a politician’s credibility revolves around three key elements: competence, the strength of their vision and, more importantly, their ability to put into practice their beliefs.

Enter RN leader Bardella, the face of a new political era.

At just 28, he has already cemented himself as a primary player in France, taking over as party leader from Le Pen in 2022.

In a nation longing for a towering political figure reminiscent of General De Gaulle, Bardella has emerged as a possible spiritual successor as a politician who bucks conventional ideological lines.

A recent survey conducted by Viavoice and commissioned by prominent French media outlets illustrated the extent of the RN leader’s prominence: While Bardella enjoys widespread recognition, other election list leaders such as Valerie Hayer (Renaissance) or Raphael Gluscksman (Socialist Party) remain largely unknown to the French people.

That lack of public recognition hinders voter turnout for these mainstream parties.

Bardella stands out as the most significant candidate and represents the hard-right’s golden ticket to the European Parliament. He underscores the significance of embodiment and visibility in contemporary French politics.


‘No’ vote supporters celebrate after France voted against the ratification of the European constitution in the French referendum Paris at Place de la Bastille. Political leaders Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marie-Georges Buffet and Olivier Bensancenot join supporters at La Bastille. (Photo by Alain Nogues/Corbis via Getty Images)

France is one of the most Eurosceptic countries in the European Union. French citizens are far from enthusiastic about the June EP elections. A recent poll indicates most are “uninterested” with many expressing dissatisfaction with the country’s membership of the EU.

Since the referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty on May 29, 2005, the French have seen the bloc as an agent of neo-liberal globalisation, hitting French industry hard.

This Euroscepticism hurts mainstream parties but could further benefit the RN.

In France, mainstream parties are seen as pro-EU. The Republicans and the Socialist Party, co-architects of the current version of the union, have dominated French politics for years.

Macron’s recent Sorbonne Speech cemented the idea that his Renaissance party will continue the Socialist’s and Republicans’ agenda in this regard, vowing to back a further expansion of the bloc into issues such as defence.

The RN, by contrast, has been consistently Eurosceptic. Back in 2014, the party campaigned for a so-called “Frexit”, with Bardella later claiming that “80 per cent of French laws” come from the EU.

Although the party has softened its stance on some EU issues, many still view it as the main challenger to Brussels’ influence in France.

France’s mainstream parties have, by contrast, struggled to provide a clear vision for the EU, further fuelling Euroscepticism within the country.

Emanuel Argo, a former local politician and Head of Africa Mundus, a French-based organisation, said political parties were to blame for the lack of interest.

He told Brussels Signal: “Political parties do not actually show what they do with their mandate [on the European level].

“There is also a lack of transparency about the usefulness of the European Union. It has never been said what Europe is doing,” he added.

This combination of dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and the appeal of the RN reflects a broader rupture in French politics, which is likely to become clearly visible in the EP elections.