‘Yellow vests’ to run for European elections

Members of France’s “yellow vest” protest movement say they are to field candidates to run in the upcoming European Parliament elections, well more than two months after they began protest rallies against political elite and what they called inequality in the European country.

“The citizen movement… has shown the need to transform the anger into a political project capable of giving answers to the French people who have supported it,” the movement said in a statement on Wednesday.

It also put forward a list of ten candidates aspiring to secure seats in the European Parliament in the May 26 elections on the “Citizen-led Rally” ticket.  The hopefuls, aged 29 to 53, are from different walks of life, with jobs ranging from forklift driver and stay-at-home mother to sales director.

Ingrid Levavasseur, a 31-year-old auxiliary nurse and a highly popular figure in the movement, is leading the list. She is raising two children alone and is from Normandy.

According to Hayk Shahinyan, a spokesperson for the movement, it aims to present 79 candidates in total, with the remaining 69 to be chosen in an internal ballot by February 15.

The protests, named after high-visibility vests French drivers are required to keep in their vehicles, began on November 17 against fuel tax hikes, which have since been scrapped.

The rallies, however, quickly morphed into a wholesale revolt against economic woes and French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, triggering some of the capital’s worst street violence in decades and claiming the lives of 10 people and wounding hundreds of others so far.

An Elabe poll, whose results were published earlier in the day, speculated that the movement — which has been loosely organized without a leadership structure since its formation — is expected to win up to 13 percent of the vote.

The poll further speculated that Macron’s party, the Republic on the Move, is on top, with 22.5 percent, and the far-right National Rally (RN) — formerly known as the National Front — ranks second with 17.5 percent. It also predicted that the yellow vests would hurt Marine Le Pen’s RN the most.

The yellow vests can be ultimately divided into at least two different groups — radicals who oppose all party politics and moderates who believe that any major change can come only by taking part in the political system.

By participating in the upcoming elections, the candidates, all from the moderates, risk accentuating a split in the nascent movement.

Macron’s party has recently witnessed a rebound in its poll scores, a development that can be interpreted as a clear sign of public approval for a harder stance he has adopted against the “yellow vest” demonstrators following a series of street riots that left many store windows smashed and cars burnt, apart from the human casualties.