France Inc. should 'mobilize' against Le Pen's far right, Macron ministers say

French President Macron hosts Qatari Emir Al Thani in Paris

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - French Industry Minister Roland Lescure on Wednesday urged France's top companies to publicly criticize Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN), citing similar efforts by German firms like Siemens and BMW against the far right there.

France's political class is reeling after President Emmanuel Macron called a snap legislative election in a few weeks time that could hand real power to Le Pen's party after years on the sidelines.

Speaking with Reuters shortly before Macron called on rival parties to join his electoral pact against the RN, Lescure said France Inc. should join the government's efforts to keep the far right from power.

"Mobilize yourself, highlight the harmful programme of the National Rally. Get started!" he said, adding that BMW, Siemens and other German companies had spoken out against Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire echoed Lescure's call.

"The noose is tight. We're facing headwinds, that's for sure," he said. "I urge the economic community to mobilize."

German business leaders, who have typically stayed out of party politics, have increasingly come out against the AfD amid fears that Germany's image as an attractive destination for foreign investment could be threatened.

The CEOs of Siemens and Merecedes-Benz said in a German newspaper interview in May that they were involved in anti-extremism campaigns and calling on their staff to vote for democratic parties.

A boardmember of a French blue-chip firm, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Macron's snap election call was a source of frustration for many business leaders.

There was scant support for the National Rally amongst big business, said the board member, who added that Macron's perceived arrogance might be a liability for the ruling party alliance if he involved himself too heavily in the campaign.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, additional reporting by Sarah Marsh; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Richard Lough and Angus MacSwan)