April 2, 2019 / 12:04 PM / 3 months ago

Shunned by banks, France's Le Pen seeks to crowdfund EU election campaign

PARIS (Reuters) - Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right party, said on Tuesday she would raise funds from the public for next month’s European Parliament elections, after her party failed to secure a multi-million-euro bank loan.

FILE PHOTO: French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party leader Marine Le Pen attends a meeting in Saint-Paul-du-Bois, France, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Nationalist, eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties are expected to make strong gains in the vote, and Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) is almost neck-and-neck in the polls with President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche.

The RN, which changed its name from Front National to shed a brand associated by many voters with racism and anti-Semitism, faces financial problems: it is heavily indebted and has had its accounts in France closed by banks which declined to say why.

It also remains dogged by questions over a Russian loan that helped financed Le Pen’s 2017 presidential run.

“We have no other option than to go to the French people and ask to borrow money for a year to wage our campaign,” Le Pen told LCI news site.

The party had been hoping to secure a 4 million euro ($4.5 million) loan, Jordan Bardella, the lead candidate on Le Pen’s list for the European election, told Reuters in January.

But that was unsuccessful and the party now hopes to raise cash through loans or donations from supporters, Le Pen said.

The RN’s cash-crunch could hamper its ability to mount a national campaign and win support beyond Le Pen’s core base. Voters often use European Parliament elections to express discontent with the government.

After Macron reshaped France’s political landscape with his 2017 election victory, obliterating the traditional centre-right and centre-left blocks that dominated politics for decades, the European contest is shaping up as a showdown between Macron’s and Le Pen’s parties.

An Ifop-Fiducial survey this week showed Macron’s La Republique en Marche on 22.5 percent compared with 21 percent for Le Pen’s party.

The RN is not alone in seeking public financial support. On Sunday, the hard-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) said it had raised 300,000 euros in the first few hours of launching a crowdfunding appeal.

($1 = 0.8927 euros)

Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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