Le Pen’s Far Right Solidifies Its Lead Before French Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has bolstered its lead ahead of the first round of France’s snap legislative election on Sunday as Emmanuel Macron’s centrists and an alliance of leftist parties have stalled in their efforts to catch up.

Most Read from Bloomberg

With polls putting her party and its allies on course to be the biggest group in the National Assembly and Macron’s term as president running until mid-2027, tensions are already emerging over who will call the shots on issues ranging from defense to appointing a European commissioner.

Macron dissolved the National Assembly earlier this month and called a snap vote after his group was trounced in European Parliament elections, a decision that led to the worst bond rout since the sovereign debt crisis and wiped almost $200 billion off the value of stocks. The president has sought to warn voters against “the fever of the extremes,” while Le Pen has taken aim at his record on issues such as the economy and immigration.

“The National Rally is ending its campaign above its score in the European elections and is expanding geographically,” Bruno Jeanbart, the vice president of pollster OpinionWay, told Les Echos newspaper. “The French people haven’t changed their minds and they still want to sanction Emmanuel Macron.”

Le Pen’s party and its allies have gained 0.1 point to 36.2% in Bloomberg’s poll of polls. The leftist New Popular Front alliance, bringing together Socialists, Communists, Greens and the far-left France Unbowed, is second on 28.3%, slipping 0.1 point. Macron’s group is trailing on 20.4%.

  • Sign up for the Paris Edition newsletter for special coverage throughout the French election.

France’s two-round election makes seat predictions tricky, yet projections by polling companies show the National Rally and its allies are on track to become the biggest group in the lower house of parliament. While they have mostly indicated Le Pen’s group would fall short of the 289 lawmakers needed to form an absolute majority, a survey of 2,004 adults by Elabe published Friday estimated it would get 260-295 seats.

A separate LegiTrack OpinionWay-Vae Solis poll of voting intentions among 1,058 people showed several dozen National Rally candidates will be elected outright in the first round, with about 400 present in the second, where the number of three-way runoffs is expected to reach a record 150-200.

The challenges of a power-sharing arrangement in government, called cohabitation in France, with a president and a dominant parliamentary group — from which a prime minister would typically be chosen — from opposing political camps were put in the spotlight on Friday.

After French officials said Macron was pushing to obtain another mandate for his European commissioner, Thierry Breton, in Brussels, Le Pen told Europe 1 radio that was wishful thinking.

“Emmanuel Macron is projecting a victory he can’t achieve,” she said. “So there will be another government than the one we know, and it is the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint the European commissioner. It’s not the prerogative of the president.”

Another area where the constitution isn’t entirely clear is who handles defense. While the text says the president heads the army, and Le Pen has backed Macron’s military funding law for 2024-2030, a National Rally majority could weigh on more recent decisions to help Ukraine, including through budget negotiations.

Le Pen and party chief Jordan Bardella, who has said he would agree to be prime minister only after getting an absolute majority, have both said they support Ukraine in its fight against Russia. But contrary to Macron, they also said they would oppose sending troops and long-range weapons able to target deep strikes inside Russia.

After Le Pen said the title of “army chief” conferred to the president by the constitution was merely honorific, Macron’s prime minister, Gabriel Attal, insisted the president is responsible for defense and warned of the fallout from confusion over national security.

“Foreign powers are rubbing their hands, saying to themselves: ‘look, there’s going to be chaos at the top of the state and they won’t agree with each other,’” he told BFM TV on Friday.

This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

(Updates with comment from polling company in fourth paragraph.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.