Far-right leader Bardella says he needs absolute majority to govern France effectively


  • World
  • Tuesday, 18 Jun 2024

FILE PHOTO: Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party, visits a farm on his first campaign trip for the upcoming French parliamentary elections, in Chuelles, near Montargis, France, June 14, 2024. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The leader of France's far-right National Rally (RN), Jordan Bardella, appealed to voters on Tuesday to hand his party an absolute majority in upcoming parliamentary elections so that it is able to govern effectively.

Bardella's eurosceptic, anti-immigration party has its first real chance of winning national power in the June 30 and July 7 ballot. Opinion polls have consistently placed the RN first since President Emmanuel Macron's shock decision this month to dissolve parliament.

But pollsters who have attempted the tricky exercise of making a second-round forecast for France's 577 constituencies see the RN failing to secure the absolute majority that would guarantee its ability to pass laws without allies.

"I'm not going to sell to the French reforms that I cannot carry out. I'm telling them that in order to act, I need an absolute majority," Bardella told CNews TV.

He had the same message for Le Parisien newspaper, urging voters to rally behind him and Marine Le Pen, the RN's former leader and its candidate in France's next presidential election due in 2027.

"To govern, I need an absolute majority," he said, hinting that the RN might turn down any offer to form a government if it does not reach the 289 seat threshold along with close allies.

"Who can believe that we would be able to change the daily lives of the French by cohabitation with a relative majority? No one. I say to the French: to try us, we need an absolute majority."

Bardella, 28, has watered down some of his party's pledges amid investors' concerns about their impact on the public finances, saying an RN government would not immediately cut VAT on a list of 100 essential goods.

COSTLY PLANS

But in his comments to Le Parisien he also confirmed costly plans to quickly slash VAT on petrol, heating fuel, electricity and gas to 5.5% from 20%, saying he wanted that to be his first move as prime minister.

"If I run the country without an absolute majority, I won't be able to cut VAT on fuel and on gas ... I won't be able to drastically cut immigration," he told Le Parisien.

The RN is yet to detail its economic policies, but Bardella said some of its plans would be financed by scrapping tax breaks.

"There is a tax break for shipping firms that costs the state 5 billion euros and I want to end this tax break," he said.

French shipping giant CMA CGM became France's most profitable company in 2022, overtaking the likes of TotalEnergies and luxury giant LVMH, as a post-COVID boom in shipping boosted its annual net profit to nearly $25 billion.

CMA CGM, headed by Rodolphe Saade and owned by his family, used its earnings for a flurry of acquisitions in logistics, port terminals and French media, including a deal to acquire news channel BFM TV.

CMA CGM declined to comment when asked about Bardella's comments.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander, Gus Trompiz, writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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