France’s far-right leader says he will not be PM without absolute majority

<span>Jordan Bardella. His National Rally is currently ahead in polling for the summer parliamentary elections in France.</span><span>Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/Reuters</span>
Jordan Bardella. His National Rally is currently ahead in polling for the summer parliamentary elections in France.Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/Reuters

Jordan Bardella, the leader of the National Rally (RN), has said he will not accept the job of prime minister unless his far-right party wins an absolute majority in parliament because he would not have the freedom to act “in the daily lives of French people” as he sees fit.

Polls suggest the RN is on course to win the snap parliamentary elections called by Emmanuel Macron after the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party’s crushing victory in European parliament elections earlier this month.

An absolute majority in the 577-seat national assembly, however – which would in principle allow the RN to pass laws and govern without the help of potential allies from the centre-right Les Républicains – appears out of the party’s reach.

The RN’s likely presidential candidate in 2027, Marine Le Pen, has said Bardella, 28, would be the party’s choice for prime minister after the two-round vote on 30 June and 7 July. But on Wednesday Bardella said he would take the job only in the event of an outright victory.

“If tomorrow I’m in a position to be appointed to the [the prime minister’s office], Matignon and I do not have an absolute majority because the French have not given me an absolute majority, then I will refuse to be appointed,” Bardella told public TV.

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“I tell the French people that to act, I need an absolute majority,” he said. “A prime minister … with a relative majority cannot change things. I would not be able to act in the daily lives of French people, on the country’s policies.”

Some polls suggest that Macron’s centrist Renaissance party, which lost its parliamentary majority in 2022, could be squeezed to a small rump of between 70 and 100 MPs, with RN on 195-245 and the left-green New Popular Front (NFP) alliance on 190-235.

The president is free to appoint any prime minister he or she chooses but, in practice, to avoid the incoming government being overturned by a no-confidence vote, the president invariably nominates someone who enjoys majority support in parliament.

If RN refuses, Macron could offer the post to the second biggest party or try to build a coalition of mainstream parties – a process likely to prove difficult, if not impossible. The constitution prohibits another election within a year, meaning there is a real risk of stalemate.

Visiting a defence show on Wednesday, Bardella insisted that he did “not plan to question the commitments France has made on the international stage” on defence, adding: “Our credibility towards our European partners and Nato allies is at stake.”

Le Pen has previously said that, if she were elected, France would leave Nato’s integrated command for national “independence”. RN’s Moscow-friendly history – including a 2014 Russian bank loan – has sparked alarm in European defence circles.

Macron has said he has “confidence in the French” to back the centre. “They see well what is on offer,” the president said.

RN on Wednesday suspended a candidate over an antisemitic social media post from 2018. Joseph Martin, an RN candidate in the Morbihan department in Brittany, reportedly posted: “Gas [had] done justice to the victims of the Shoah.” The far-right party said he had been “suspended … with a view to exclusion”.

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The president himself also came under fire on Wednesday from rights groups and some in his own camp over remarks he made about a proposal by the left-green NFP alliance to allow people to freely change gender by filing a request at the town hall.

A measure “authorising the change of civil status, unrestricted and free of charge, before a civil official” appears on page 19 of NFP’s manifesto, prompting Macron to refer to “completely farcical things like changing your gender at the town hall”.

Clément Beaune, a gay MP from Macron’s Renaissance party and previously a cabinet minister, said: “For trans people, for LGBT people, for everyone … we must reject all stigmatisation in political discourse and advance rights.”

Julia Torlet of the SOS Homophobie right group said Macron was “using transphobia to attack the programmes of his political opponents”, while Communist party leader Fabien Roussel said he was “repeating the discourse of the extreme right”.

An Élysée Palace spokesperson told French media: “The president has a record of progress on societal issues like few of his predecessors.

“He considers, however, that being able to freely change gender in a town hall is not a social project he can defend in view of the complexity of the questions this raises for those concerned, who should be supported when they decide to take such a step.”