Funding crisis ‘killing’ party: Le Pen
A decision by France’s financial prosecutor to withhold €2 million in public funds from the National Rally is an “attack on democracy” that will lead to the “death” of the extremist party, according to leader Marine Le Pen (pictured).
“If tomorrow [the far-left] France Unbowed was in our situation, I would come to its defence,” Le Pen told BFM television.
The far-right party has set up a website to collect donations from supporters.
The National Rally, recently rebranded from the Front National, has been denied an advance on half of its public funding by the French financial prosecutor.
The decision comes amid an ongoing probe into charges that Le Pen’s party misused around €7 million in European parliamentary funds set aside to pay political assistants between 2009 and last year.
Le Pen told BFTMV the financial prosecutor’s ruling “did not respect any legal criteria”. The National Rally has had trouble getting loans from banks for its campaigns and is largely reliant on state funding.
“Two judges have decided — in violation to the principle of presumption of innocence, and without a court’s ruling — to assassinate the leading opposition party in France,” Le Pen told the broadcaster. The decision represented a “coup d’état” and “a veritable attack on democracy”, she said.
Nicolas Bay, the party’s leading MEP, is charged with breach of trust, and Le Pen’s bodyguard Thierry Legier, who was paid in part with the European Parliament’s funds.
The European Court of Justice in June ordered the rebranded party to pay back nearly €300,000 in that it said was used to pay parliamentary assistants to carry out non-parliamentary work. A group of 35 MEPs — including National Rally members — were also ordered to repay €500,000 allegedly spent on dinners and Christmas gifts.
Rival parties came to her defence.
“The principle in a democratic nation is nonetheless to make sure that a seizure doesn’t threaten a party’s very existence,” Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure told broadcaster Europe 1.
The National Rally had expected to collect around €4.5 million in subsidies this year, in proportion to the party’s electoral results last year when she reached a runoff against Emmanuel Macron.
State-run political subsidies are common in European countries, which see them as a way of creating a level playing field while limiting the risks of political corruption or illegal funding.
Marine Le Pen. Picture credit: Wikimedia