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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

Far-right National Rally ready to govern France, Jordan Bardella says at manifesto launch

Jordan Bardella standing at a lectern
Jordan Bardella, National Rally’s president, said he would cut energy taxes, ban mobile phones from schools and prevent dual nationals from taking strategic jobs in security or defence. Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

The French far-right leader Jordan Bardella has said his party is ready to govern as he unveiled manifesto pledges to limit immigration and scrap nationality rights for children born and raised in France by foreign parents.

“In three words: we are ready,” the 28-year-old president of the anti-immigration National Rally (Rassemblement – RN) said on Monday as he promised to “restore faith in France and its greatness”.

In a wide-ranging policy platform, Bardella said he would cut energy taxes to help people make ends meet, ban mobile phones from all schools, and prevent dual nationals from taking certain strategic jobs in the security or defence sector, which would be reserved for French citizens.

The mood was buoyant as Bardella gathered top party officials and journalists in a plush venue with pink marble walls and gold cornicing in the smart 8th arrondissement of Paris. Many of the officials had spent the weekend canvassing in constituencies across France after the centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, called a snap election when his centrists were trounced by the RN in European elections.

Several senior RN figures said that in towns and villages they were seeing support for the far right that exceeded their expectations and signalled a clear rejection of the president.

“We are the only alternative. We are credible, responsible and respect French institutions,” Bardella said as he sought to convince voters that his party, once attacked by its political opponents as untested and incompetent on the economy, was now the only one to be trusted with the budget. “Seven long years of Macronism has weakened the country,” he added, blaming the current government for France’s public debt.

Bardella once again called for voters to give him an absolute majority in parliament in order to form a far-right government which he said would “restore order”, crack down on misbehaviour in schools, and change the law to make it easier to deport people from abroad convicted of crimes.

He said that in the short term, he would reduce VAT on fuel, tax and electricity.

In the longer term, he said, a priority was to “put France back on its feet” by introducing what he called “a necessary law against Islamist ideologies”. The details of this project were not spelled out.

In her 2022 presidential election campaign, Marine Le Pen said she wanted to ban the Muslim headscarf from all public places, including the streets, calling it a “uniform of totalitarian ideology”. A party official said on Monday there were no immediate plans to act on the headscarf.

Bardella also announced a “big bang” in education, which he said would restore authority in schools. Children would have to use the formal “vous” form of address to teachers, tests of school uniforms would be rolled out (already put in place by Macron’s government) and there would be tougher sanctions on misbehaviour. These would include welfare benefits being scrapped for the families of children who were repeatedly disruptive. Special centres would be created for “disruptive students or bullies”, he said.

On foreign policy, the RN would continue to provide logistical and material support to Ukraine, but opposed troops on the ground and long-range weapons. Bardella said his party, which had close ties to Russia before its invasion of Ukraine, would be “extremely vigilant” in the face of Moscow’s attempts to interfere in French affairs.

The result of the snap two-round parliament vote, on 30 June and 7 July, is hard to accurately predict. Current polling shows the RN would take the biggest share of the vote at about 35%–36%, with a leftwing alliance at about 27%–29.5% and Macron’s centrists on 19.5%–22%. For the National Rally to win an absolute majority it would have to make a large leap from its current 88 seats to 289. If no party wins a majority, there could be gridlock in parliament.

Le Pen, who one party official said hopes to use this election as a “stepping stone” to winning the presidency for the far right in 2027, sat in the front row of Bardella’s manifesto launch, next to Éric Ciotti, the leader of France’s mainstream rightwing party, who recently announced a crucial alliance with the far right, a move that was greeted with fury and rebellion by key members of his party.

Macron reiterated this weekend in a letter to French people published in regional newspapers that he would stay on as head of state whatever the parliamentary result. In calling an election in just three weeks, Macron hoped to trip up his opponents and catch them unprepared. But if another party wins a majority, he would be forced to share power with a prime minister from the opposition, a phenomenon known in French as cohabitation.

“The goal cannot be to just continue as things were,” Macron said in his letter on Monday. He urged French people not to make the election a referendum on his leadership, saying it is not “a vote of confidence in the president of the republic”.

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