Increasing number of ‘yellow vest’ lists for European elections

Gilets jaunes gather to protest high fuel prices.

With the announcement of a third ‘yellow vest’ list for the European elections, the movement seems to be divided. However, it has managed to make taxation one of the central issues of the May 2019 vote for French people. EURACTIV France reports.

How many ‘yellow vest’ lists could there be for the European elections? On 1 February, a third list was added to the two lists previously announced by different representatives of the protest movement.

Having been created in November in response to the French carbon tax increase, the yellow vest movement has since brought the social crisis to the forefront of French and European politics.

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The new list originating from the yellow vest movement is called “Rassemblement des Gilets jaunes citoyens” (Rally of the citizen yellow vests) and will reportedly be led by Thierry Paul Valette.

On his blog, Valette presents himself as a spokesperson of a “famine committee in Yemen” and founder of a movement called “Egalité nationale” (national equality).

The proposed list only includes a few names of the 79 candidates required to participate in the European elections. Its candidates promise to work toward “a more social and democratic Europe, while limiting social dumping.”

This list has been added the first one with the “yellow vest” stamp, from the “Rassemblement d’initiative citoyenne” (rallying of the citizens’ initiative) and led by one of the movement’s leading figures, Ingrid Levavasseur. But within just a few days, there have already been two defections from the list of 10, as well as the temporary withdrawal of its campaign director, Hayk Shahinyan.

The other list, announced in its wake, is led by Patrick Cribouw, a yellow vest protester from Nice. He intends to promote ideas particularly concerning immigration and sovereignty. This list, called “Union jaune” (yellow union), remains a work in progress as no other candidate names have been announced for the moment.

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While none of the lists announced have been finalised for the time being, they have already prompted sometimes hostile reactions from the ‘yellow vests’, many of whom are committed to the movement’s apolitical dimension.

“Having a #YellowVest list at the 2019 European elections is a serious mistake. The European Parliament has no power to improve people’s lives. Meanwhile, the Yellow Vests want to make concrete and immediate progress. #GeneralStrike,” tweeted François Boulo, a representative of the yellow vest movement.

Another figure of the movement, Benjamin Cauchy, also disapproved of such lists.

“The ‘yellow vest’ movement is a cross-party movement, which has been bringing people together on roundabouts from the far-left to the far-right for several weeks. I’m concerned about the political line a ‘yellow vest’ list may take at the European elections,” he warned in comments made to public radio station France Info.

Voting intentions

A “yellow vest” list could obtain 13% of the vote, according to a poll conducted by Elabe for BFMTV/ L’Opinion. This would put it in third place, behind the centrist La République en Marche (22.5% of voting intentions) and the far-right Rassemblement National (17.5%).

In this set-up, the Rassemblement National would be the party losing the most voters to a ‘yellow vest’ list, with a 3-point drop. This is because both sets of voters would be voting for similar reasons.

Potential voters for the yellow vest list justified their choice on the grounds of discontent over policy by the executive (54%), support for the list’s ideas (23%) and discontent with the EU (15%). These voting criteria are quite similar to those of potential voters not only of the Rassemblement National but also of the far-left La France Insoumise.

Beyond voting intentions, the demands for tax justice raised by the yellow vest movement seem to have made this issue higher among French people’s priorities.

Accordingly, this subject was referred to as a priority issue by 28% of respondents, a 14-point increase since November 2018, the poll underlined.

The increased awareness of tax justice has put the issue of tax fraud – which is estimated to cost between €60-80 billion a year in France – among one of the priority concerns for the European election, such as the climate, the fight against terrorism, immigration and economic growth.

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