French election: What do the yellow vests stand for – and how did they nearly cost Macron

Marine Le Pen 'already succeeded' against Macron says host

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During his first term as French President, Emmanuel Macron caused outrage among the people of France when he proposed a controversial fuel tax. The decision, along with a handful of other policies, led to thousands of protesters taking to the streets for more than 60 consecutive weeks.

What was the yellow vest movement?

The movement got its name from the yellow safety vests worn by protesters, known as ‘gilets jaunes’.

Protests began to spontaneously appear around France in late 2018 to oppose a “green tax” increase on petrol and diesel.

At the time, the cost of diesel had increased by some 20 percent in the 12 months beforehand to an average of 1.49 euros (£1.24) per litre.

Mr Macron then announced further taxes on fuel in a move he said was necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment.

At first, the yellow vests were backed by people from rural areas who had to drive long distances to work and support their families.

However, before long they snowballed into a wider movement against Mr Macron’s perceived bias in favour of the elite and wealthy city dwellers.

The protests reached a peak in December 2018 when people stormed the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.

Several months later, the number of yellow vests out on the streets had starkly diminished, while Mr Macron could claim to have largely seen off the most formidable challenge to his presidency.

In fact, concerning its material objectives, the movement was only partially successful.

The movement managed to force the government into a series of crisis measures to prop up purchasing power, which in turn helped to drain support for the movement.

Indeed, it remains to be seen whether the yellow vests legacy could yet have an impact on the incumbent president’s hopes of securing a second term in office.

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On Sunday, France will hold its latest presidential election, with voting expected to continue into a second-round-run-off vote in two weeks.

Most pollsters have the 44-year-old as the favourite to win the election, though he is expected to face stern competition from Marine Le Pen and other candidates.

Ms Le Pen in particular has been able to narrow the gap in some surveys to as little as three percentage points and will be hoping to go one better than her second-round defeat to Mr Macron in 2017.

On that occasion, the National Rally candidate could only muster 34 percent of the vote to Mr Macron’s 66 percent.

In France, presidential elections take place every five years and voting is always held on a Sunday.

The betting agent, Betfair, has awarded Mr Macron odds of 3/10 to emerge victorious, while Ms Le Pen has slightly longer odds of 7/2.

Should it be needed for both rounds, voting is due to be held during the French school holidays with ballots of this scale rarely finishing after just one round.

Other candidates who are taking part in the election include the far right TV pundit Eric Zemmour and the France Unbowed party nominee Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

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