Although independent of parties and unions, the movement shares many of the RN’s demands: proportional representation in parliament, direct democracy through Swiss-style referendums, less European integration and – above all – Macron’s resignation.
“If Macron does not have the wisdom to go back to the people by dissolving parliament, then let the political arbitrage come from European elections,” said Le Pen, as her supporters repeatedly shouted “Macron, demission!” (“Macron, resignation!”).
Both Le Pen and far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon have publicly sympathised with the yellow vests – named after the high-visibility jackets they wear – and asked for their support.
Le Pen hopes the EU vote will advance a redrawing of France’s political map. The process began with the first round of the 2017 presidential election, when Macron’s upstart centrist movement and her own National Front, since renamed, eliminated the traditional big parties – the conservative Les Republicains and the Socialists.
“The battle is now between nationalists and globalists,” she said.
Since the start of the yellow vest protests, Le Pen’s RN has gained in the polls. A mid-December Ifop poll gave it 24 per cent support against 18 per cent for Macron’s LREM.
The conservatives had 11 per cent, Melenchon’s La France Insoumise (“France Unbowed”) 9 per cent, the movement of former Le Pen ally Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 8 per cent and the Socialists just 4.5 per cent.
Le Pen herself is not running in the European election as she wants to remain in the French parliament, and on Sunday presented 23-year-old Jordan Bardella as the NR’s leading candidate.
“In Italy and Austria, our allies are governing,” Bardella said. “A better tomorrow is within our grasp.”
Macron himself will launch three months of national debate this week to air yellow-vest grievances in the hope of appeasing the movement.
An RN supporter at Sunday’s rally, Sebastien Lefevre, told Reuters he fully supports the yellow vests as does his party.
“And from what I understand from the polls, most of the yellow vests would vote for us,” he said.