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

By Ingrid Melander

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 parliamentary elections, saying it would otherwise not be able to push through its planned reforms.

The eurosceptic, anti-immigration RN has its first real chance of winning national power in the two-stage election on June 30 and July 7. Opinion polls have consistently put the RN in first place since President Emmanuel Macron's shock decision this month to dissolve parliament.

But pollsters who have attempted to make a second-round forecast for France's 577 constituencies see the RN failing to secure the absolute majority that would guarantee its ability to govern and 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.

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 and that pension reform would only be considered in the autumn.


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.

The RN says this would cost 12 billion euros but the government says it would cost at least 17 billion.

"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," Bardella told Le Parisien.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said France, the euro zone's second-biggest economy, faces the risk of a financial crisis if either the far right or left wins the election because of their heavy spending plans.

Macron's decision to dissolve parliament, made in response to a poor performance by his centrist Renaissance party in the European Parliament election on June 9, spooked financial markets, triggering a run on French stocks and bonds last week.

Concerns about France's fiscal sustainability under an RN government wedded to higher public spending and protectionist trade policies have prompted some economists to invoke Britain's 2022 mini-budget of unfunded tax cuts under then-prime minister Liz Truss which hammered UK assets and forced the Bank of England to step in to stabilise markets.

Asked in an interview with Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday if a Truss-style scenario was possible in France, Le Maire said "Yes, it's a risk."

The RN has yet to set out in detail its economic policies but Bardella said some of its plans would be financed by scrapping tax breaks, giving the example of one such break to shipping firms that he said cost the state five billion euros.

The former head of Macron's group in parliament criticised the president's decision to dissolve the assembly as "foolish".

"I can find nobody... who understands or approves of it," Gilles Le Gendre, who was not endorsed by Macron's party to run in this ballot, told Le Monde.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander, Gus Trompiz, Elizabeth Pineau, Editing by Gareth Jones)