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Le Pen's far-right party says ready to govern amid rise in polls

William Horobin and Ania Nussbaum, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella sought to assure French voters that he can be trusted overseeing the European Union’s second-largest economy as his party made further gains in the polls ahead of Sunday’s election.

The far-right group of Marine Le Pen increased its lead by 0.3 point to 34.2%, according to Bloomberg’s poll of polls, while a leftist alliance called the New Popular Front, bringing together Socialists, Communists, Greens and the far-left France Unbowed, is second with 28.2%, up 0.1 point. President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party and its allies are in third at 20.6%.

Bardella told a press conference on Monday that he would pay for a proposed reduction in sales tax on energy and fuel – which would cost €7 billion ($7.5 billion) a year – by cutting France’s contribution to the E.U. budget, closing tax advantages for shipping firms and boosting levies on the profits of energy companies.

The National Rally “is the only movement to implement immediately and reasonably the expectations of French people. In three words: we are ready,” he said. “We aim to bring the country back to budgetary reason.”

Macron dissolved the lower house of parliament earlier this month and called a snap legislative vote after his group was trounced in European Parliament elections. His surprise decision triggered turmoil in markets, with investors now demanding the highest risk premium on its bonds since 2012 amid concerns any winner might swell France’s borrowings.

The disarray also spread to the equities market, with France’s CAC 40 Index falling the most in over two years in the week following Macron’s decision, wiping out $258 billion in market capitalization.

Speaking on the sidelines of the presentation, the party’s top finance adviser and former member of the National Assembly’s finance committee, Jean-Philippe Tanguy, said that in government the National Rally would respect the cost savings targets of the current government and European rules on deficits. Part of the reason for the market rout since Macron called the snap vote was concerns over the next government’s approach to public finances.

“We won’t let the deficit run away in the summer of 2024, we will respect the trajectory of deficit reduction to keep France in the criteria of the stability pact, not to please Brussels, but because it’s in the interest of French people,” Tanguy said.

Bardella painted the alliance of the left, which is second in the polls, as his main rival and one that will open France’s doors to uncontrolled immigration and propel the country into the arms of the International Monetary Fund with its spending.

 

Most pollsters predict that the National Rally will form the largest group in the National Assembly but fall short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority. The latest survey by Odoxa predicts the party will get between 250 to 300 seats. France’s two-round voting system makes forecasting tricky, however, given the possibility of runoffs involving more than two candidates.

This scenario — where National Rally wins the most seats in the legislature but falls short of an absolute majority — would likely inflict gridlock on the lower house, meaning any ambitious legislation or reform would have to be sidelined.

Both Bardella and Le Pen have stated they would not assume power with only a relative majority, as it would leave them vulnerable to no-confidence votes in the lower house.

Macron’s team has said that both the left and National Rally’s project would be harmful for the economy by winding back pro-business measures and raising taxes.

Despite leading in the polls, both Le Pen’s party and the left-wing alliance have faced a hostile reception from entrepreneurs over their plans on how to fix public finances. “The National Rally’s program is dangerous for the French economy, growth and jobs; that of the New Popular Front is just as dangerous, if not more,” Patrick Martin, the head of France’s Medef business lobby, said in an interview in Le Figaro last week.

Bardella repeated on Monday that he will launch an audit of France’s finances before laying out the fine details of his economic plans. He said the National Rally will organize a broad consultation in the fall to simplify business and continue cutting production taxes, extending something Macron has done.

“We want to make France an attractive place for production,” he said.


©2024 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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