Gilets Jaunes and the fractured support of Emmanuel Macron


Source Wikipedia, credit Olivier Ortelpa -

Gilet Jaune protest, Paris, December Source Wikipedia, credit Olivier Ortelpa –

We turn our attention from the British Brexit to France, where all is not rosy either, what with the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protests continuing now into the third month and President Macron, after first talking tough, then had to make major economic concessions to the protesting populace, and has now been forced to have a National Conversation about where the country is going to avoid Louis XVI’s fate.  (Louis XVI was guillotined during the French Revolution).

Our analysis, after watching a number of elections over the last 2 years (and predicting the outcome of some majors ones, often against the run of the polls)  is that what is happening is not limited to the UK, or USA, but is occurring across the OECD at the least. In general there are four common factors:

  • Dissatisfaction with the existing ruling “system” (typically a centrist system with 2 main parties/groupings) from people whose interests are not being well represented by the centrist parties .
  • The rise of parties further left and right of centre, proposing more focussed actions to help their supporters
  • Over the last 2 years,  election victories for the more (usually right leaning)  parties (or a centrist party that has shifted towards the more polar positions).
  • A more divisive ongoing situation, with increasing polarisation.

What was interesting was France looked like it had avoided this fate with the 2017 election, and a “super-centrist” President Macron had won a large mandate against the opposing right wing candidate, Marine Le Pen.

However, as we showed at the time (see diagram below) his support was comprised not so much of people who supported him, but of people who supported his opponent even less.

It’s hard to see graphically at this scale, but what we are looking at is the link batween Macron and Le Pen and the supporters of the other first round losers. The thicker the line, the greater the link. As we noted at the time:

  • Both Le Pen and Macron have their own support from round 1, but that was only 21.7% vs 23.7% respectively. But that is only c 45% of those who voted in the first round.
  • The question is where will the other candidates’ voters go? Fillon and Melenchon had c 20% each of the vote
  • The DataSwarm system showed a significantly stronger bond between Macron and Fillon than between Le Pen and Fillon, c 80% split vs 20%
  • But with Melenchon it was about 50/50 to either.
  • The remaining c 15% did not seem to be massively for one or the other, again it was about 50/50

What we found was if you tracked the proportional linkages from the other candidates’ supporters to Macron (and Le Pen), it gave a prediction  of his election support at c 60% (give or take several % either way of course – it turned out his support was c 65% in the actual election).

But the key point is that 23.7 % were “his” supporters, but the other c 40% who voted were less Macron supporters, and more *not* the supporters of Le Pen.

The error was to assume all these other people who voted for him had bought into his agenda, but when he started to enact it he found out they had not.  Les Autres started to protest. Ignored initially, they became more and more restive, until his fragmented voter base donned the Gilets Jaune and the rest will one day be history.

It is not clear what will happen next, but certainly the National Conversation needs to understand where all his fragmented voters are coming from.  France has so far avoided the prevalent OECD political evolution model we outlined above, but it would be unlikely that the same underlying pressures haven’t taken hold in France too.