Berliner Tageblatt - French far right leader says party 'ready' to govern

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French far right leader says party 'ready' to govern
French far right leader says party 'ready' to govern / Photo: © AFP

French far right leader says party 'ready' to govern

French far-right leader Jordan Bardella said Monday his party was ready to govern as he pledged to curb immigration and tackle cost-of-living issues ahead of the country's most divisive election in decades.

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"In three words: we are ready," the 28-year-old president of the National Rally (RN) told a press conference as he unveiled his party's programme.

President Emmanuel Macron threw France into turmoil earlier this month by calling the snap election after his centrist party was trounced by the far-right National Rally (RN) in a European vote.

Weekend polls suggested the RN would win 35-36 percent in the first round on Sunday, ahead of a left-wing alliance on 27-29.5 percent and Macron's centrists in third on 19.5-22 percent.

Bardella, credited with helping the RN clean up its extremist image, has urged voters to give the eurosceptic party an outright majority to allow it to implement its anti-immigration, law-and-order programme.

"Seven long years of Macronism has weakened the country," he said, vowing to boost purchasing power, "restore order" and change the law to make it easier to deport foreigners convicted of crimes.

He reiterated plans to tighten borders and make it harder for foreigners born on French soil to gain citizenship.

"It's been 30 years the French have not been listened to on this subject," he said.

Bardella added that the RN would focus on "realistic" measures to curb inflation, primarily by cutting energy taxes.

He also promised a disciplinary "big bang" in schools, including a ban on mobile phones and trialling the introduction of school uniforms, a proposal previously put forward by Macron.

On foreign policy, Bardella said the RN opposed sending French troops into Ukraine -- as mooted by Macron -- but would continue to provide logistical and material support.

He said his party, which had close ties to Russia before its invasion of Ukraine, would be "extremely vigilant" in the face of Moscow's attempts to interfere in French affairs.

- 'Patriotic and republican' -

The election is shaping up as a showdown between the RN and the leftist New Popular Front, which is dominated by the hard-left France Unbowed.

The New Popular Front has so far refused to say who would be its candidate for prime minister if it wins, with several key figures urging the polarising France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon to step back.

Bardella claimed the RN, which mainstream parties have in the past united to block, was now the "patriotic and republican" choice faced with what he alleged was the anti-Semitism of Melenchon's party.

France Unbowed, which vocally opposes Israel's war in Gaza and refused to label the October 7 Hamas attacks as "terrorism", strongly denies the charges of anti-Semitism.

- Not a confidence vote -

In calling an election in just three weeks Macron hoped to trip up his opponents and catch them unprepared.

But analysts have warned the move could backfire spectacularly if the deeply unpopular president is forced to share power with a prime minister from an opposing party.

Marine Le Pen, the RN's figurehead who is bidding to succeed him as president, has called on him to step aside if he loses control of parliament.

Macron has insisted he will not resign before the end of his second term in 2027 but has vowed to heed voters' concerns and change course.

"The goal cannot be to just continue as things were," Macron said in an open letter in French media.

He has urged the French not to make the election a referendum on his leadership, saying it is not "a vote of confidence in the president of the republic".

On Tuesday, Macron's prime minister Gabriel Attal will go head-to-head with Bardella in a TV debate.

M.Ouellet--BTB