French far right says power within grasp as Mbappe warns of disaster

Le Pen insisted that the RN could still win an absolute majority (Dimitar DILKOFF)
Le Pen insisted that the RN could still win an absolute majority (Dimitar DILKOFF)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen insisted Thursday her party can still win control of parliament despite the centre and left scrambling to block her way and football hero Kylian Mbappe urging fans to outvote "those people".

Three days before Sunday's run-off in France's most critical legislative elections in recent history, a poll projected Le Pen's National Rally (RN) would fall short of an overall majority despite dominating the June 30 first round vote.

Tensions are growing as the clock ticks down to Sunday, with assaults reported on candidates and the outcome will determine if postwar France elects its first far-right government since World War II, or embarks on an era of potentially paralysing coalition politics.

France's iconic football captain, striker Mbappe, addressed the race at a news conference in Hamburg ahead of the team's Euro 2024 quarter-final against Portugal, warning: "We can't leave our country in the hands of those people there."

- 'Catastrophic' -

"I think we all saw the results, it's catastrophic," he said of the RN's first round victory. "We hope that that will change and that everyone will mobilise to vote, and to vote for the right side."

Mbappe's intervention will encourage both the centrist camp, led by President Emmanuel Macron, and the broad left-wing coalition who have between them withdrawn more than 200 candidates from the runoff on Sunday in a joint effort to ensure the far right is defeated.

"I think there is still the capacity to have an absolute majority, with the electorate turning out in a final effort to get what they want," the RN's three-time presidential candidate Le Pen told BFM television.

"I say turn out to vote as it's a really important moment to get a change in politics in all the areas that are making you suffer right now," she said.

If the RN wins an absolute majority of 289 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, it would be able to form a government with Le Pen's 28-year-old protege Jordan Bardella as prime minister.

But she acknowledged that Macron's centrists and the New Popular Front (NFP) coalition had made her party's task tougher with their "operation" to withdraw candidates to unite the anti-RN vote.

The move has sparked speculation that a right-centre-left coalition could emerge after the election to prevent the RN from taking power.

- 'No place in our society' -

Le Pen alleges that the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) could figure in such a coalition, an idea dismissed by Macron.

Le Pen, who is expected to make a fourth attempt to win the Elysee Palace in 2027, acknowledged that there had been problems with a handful of RN candidates, one of whom had to withdraw after a picture of her emerged wearing a Nazi-era Luftwaffe cap.

"There are statements that have been inadmissible and will involve sanctions and there are also statements that are just clumsy," Le Pen said.

Four people, including three minors, were detained after government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot and her team were attacked while they were sticking up campaign posters in Meudon outside Paris, prosecutors said.

Thevenot, who is of Mauritian origin, was not harmed but a colleague and a supporter were wounded and taken to hospital after the attack by around 20 people.

Other assaults have been reported against supporters of candidates of all stripes this week, including an activist trying to put up posters for Macron's former government spokesman Olivier Veran in southeast France, four LFI supporters in Paris, and an RN candidate campaigning at a market in the eastern Savoie region.

"Violence and intimidation have no place in our society," Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote on X.

Of the 30,000 police to be deployed nationwide Sunday, 5,000 would be on duty in Paris so that the "far left and far right do not create disorder", Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said.

Macron's decision to call snap elections three years ahead of schedule after his party's drubbing in EU Parliament elections is seen as a huge gamble that could plunge France into chaos weeks before it hosts the Olympics and at a time when Paris is playing a key role in backing Ukraine against Russia's invasion.

A poll by Harris Interactive projected that the RN and its allies would win 190 to 220 seats in the National Assembly, the NFP 159 to 183 seats and Macron's Ensemble (Together) alliance 110 to 135.