Eurasia Group | Politics in Pictures: a visual guide to France

Politics in Pictures: a visual guide to France

17 December 2018
Crisis in France
For the past few weeks, France has been rocked by protests led by the so-called “gilets jaunes,” or yellow vests. This has led President Emmanuel Macron's popularity to plunge in recent months to levels comparable to those of his predecessor, François Hollande.

The protests began in opposition to proposed diesel tax hikes but have since snowballed into a broader demonstration against economic stagnation and regional inequalities.

The protestors have also rallied against Macron's emphasis on business-friendly labor market measures and regulatory reforms. Macron's goal is to modernize and shrink the French state (which accounts for 56% of GDP,) as well as to remake Paris as the financial hub of Europe in the wake of Brexit.

An analysis of the 2018-19 budget found that the top 1% of disposable income would benefit the most, while disposable incomes for the bottom 20% would drop.

The protests are widely supported within France but enjoy particularly enthusiastic support from voters affiliated with antiestablishment parties such as Rassemblement National (the re-branded National Front) and La France Insoumise (the left-wing populist party led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.)

The protesters favor policies that increase social benefits and lower taxes, in other words, an end to austerity. The government yielded some concessions last week, however this will not likely deter some protestors from continuing.

Troubles for the Eurozone

Macron's troubles have resulted in the ruling La République En Marche party, which has a commanding lead in the French parliament, to fall behind Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National in the 2019 European Parliament election polls.

Euroskeptic parties are likely to do very well in next year's European Parliament elections, complicating Macron's reform agenda.  In addition, Macron's concessions to the protestors will fuel skepticism on Eurozone reform in Germany and the Hanseatic League, the group of Northern Eurozone countries led by the Netherlands.

Anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe is boosting support for Euroskeptic parties. While French opinions on migration are more ambivalent than those in other European countries, skepticism of the economic consequences of migration has helped to rally support for the Rassemblement National ahead of the vote.

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