French ‘Yellow Vests’ Now Mulling Registering as a Political Party to Run in 2019 Euro Elections

By Fayçal Benhassain | December 26, 2018 | 7:57pm EST
Protesters wearing masks and yellow vests protest against rising fuel prices on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on November 24, 2018. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Paris ( – With European elections scheduled for next May, momentum is growing for the so-called Yellow Vests protest movement here to transform itself into a political party, a step that could shake up the French political scene.

The national secretary of the French Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, is calling on supporters of the protest movement to join his electoral list for the May elections.

Alternatively, he told the daily newspaper Libération, they could also set up an independent list which his party, and probably others, would support.

The idea of turning the protest movement that has roiled France for months over economic grievances into a political party has been discussed for some time, and was again proposed publicly by Francis Lalanne, a singer-songwriter who has been supportive of the protests from the outset.

In a television interview last week, Lalanne said, “We must not stop, we must mobilize and must organize ourselves,” and suggested that a list of Yellow Vests candidates be launched for the E.U. elections.

Those comments prompted politicians from across the spectrum in France to discuss the consequences, should the Yellow Vests formally register as a political party – a requirement for competing in the elections.

Not all Yellow Vests supporters are persuaded. One prominent backer, Christophe Couderc, called the initiative premature.

“The movement is barely dawning,” he told Europe 1 radio last week. “Its strength is to be apolitical and to shake the system.”

Recent surveys have pointed to the effect that the group would have, if transformed into a party.

One found that it would draw support away from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally – which leads in the polls – and from the leftist Rebellious France group, but not have a big effect on President Emmanuel Macron's party, Republic in Motion.

National Rally would win 21 percent of votes in the event the Yellow Vests were also competing, down from 24 percent if the Yellow Vests were not on the ballot, the poll found. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Rebellious France, would get 12 percent if the Yellow Vests was a factor, compared to 15 percent if it was not.

Macron’s Republic In Motion would get 19 percent of the votes in both cases.

The Yellow Vests movement itself, as a stand-alone party, would draw between eight and 12 percent of the votes, according to the surveys. By comparison, the center-right Republicans would get eight points, whether or not the Yellow Vests competed.

Although both National Rally and Rebellious France say they do not fear a separate Yellow Vests list, expert observers say both would rather have prominent Yellow Vesters join their lists for the election than be in competition.

They and other parties are all urging Yellow Vest supporters to join their lists, rather than register their movement as a political party.

The protestors, named for their high-visibility jackets, have for two months been blocking highways, tollbooths, gas stations and other facilities, demonstrating their opposition to fuel taxes, wage grievances, cost-of-living issues and other concerns.

Macron’s attempts to defuse the campaign led to a reversal of the unpopular fuel tax plan.

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