Far-right National Rally in strong position ahead of France’s snap election, final polls show

Far-right National Rally in strong position ahead of France’s snap election, final polls show

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party is increasing its lead in the polls as campaigning reached its final stages in France’s snap election on Friday.

It is a pivotal and polarising vote called by president Emmanuel Macron, with his centrist government risking a potentially fatal beating at the hands of the far right. France goes to the ballot box on Sunday in the first round of a two-round vote.

With pollsters indicating that the far right RN could greatly increase its number of politicians in the National Assembly, the election could radically alter the trajectory of the European Union's largest country and hamstring Mr Macron – who has been a driving force in EU decision-making – for the remainder of his second and last presidential term.

RN sat at 37 per cent, according to a survey by OpinionWay published in the newspaper Les Echos, up two percentage points on a week ago. President Macron's centrist bloc, Together, is predicted to recieve 20 per cent of the popular vote, down two points from the previous poll.

The survey also found the New Popular Front left-wing alliance could win 28 per cent of the vote, a level unchanged compared with a week ago.

The poll made no seat projections for France’s next National Assembly which could differ significantly from the measured popular vote due to the two-round majority voting system. BFM TV, in a different poll compiled by Elabe, calculated that the RN and allies could end up with 260-295 seats in the new parliament – potentially crossing the 289-seat bar for an absolute majority giving them a clear mandate to govern.

Accurate seat projections are tricky because the outcome depends on results in 577 constituencies across France. Moreover, after Sunday’s first round, rivals to the RN may team up and withdraw candidates in tactical moves to defeat far-right candidates in the 7 July second round.

The prospect either of an RN-led government or the political paralysis of a hung parliament has unnerved financial markets, with the risk premium on French government bonds rising on Friday to its widest since the 2012 eurozone crisis.

An outright RN victory would position the party for an awkward “cohabitation” with Mr Macron for the remainder of his term through to 2027, the first time a French president would have to share power with a party outside the political mainstream.

On Thursday, prime minister Gabriel Attal accused his RN challenger Jordan Bardella of tolerating racist speech in the ranks of his far-right camp during a heated television debate – an accusation Mr Bardella rejected.

The snap elections were called by Mr Macron after RN earned more than 30 per cent of the vote in European parliamentary elections at the start of June, soundly beating the French president’s centrist alliance.

RN run on a platform that proposes restricting the rights of immigrants in France. Among their policies is the “national preference” plan, which would afford priority to those born in France when seeking employment or social benefits.

France has had three periods of “cohabitation” – when the president and government were from opposite political camps – in its post-war history.

On Friday, Ms Le Pen gave a sense of the type of clashes that a cohabitation could trigger when she said an RN prime minister would veto Mr Macron's preferred choice to serve as the French official in the European Commission in Brussels.

“It’s the prerogative of the prime minister, not the president, to name the French commissioner,” she told Europe 1 radio. A diplomatic source said on Thursday Mr Macron backed Thierry Breton, the former businessman who currently holds the commission’s internal markets portfolio, for a new term.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report