Le Pen Rejects Polls Saying Far Right Shy of French Majority

(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen dismissed projections that show her far-right National Rally party is set to fall well short of an absolute majority in the French legislative election and warned of a “quagmire” if she doesn’t get a mandate to govern.

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The National Rally and its allies are on course to win 170 to 250 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly on Sunday, based on six surveys released at the end of this week. That would be significantly below the 289 that would enable it to pass bills easily and push through its agenda.

“We have serious chances of getting an absolute majority,” Le Pen told French television channel CNews, adding that her party won more than twice the projected number of seats in the last vote two years ago. “If no one gets an absolute majority, and we’re the only ones who can, no bill will be passed. That’s why I’m talking about a quagmire.”

She warned that “the country will be at a standstill” until President Emmanuel Macron is legally able to dissolve parliament again in a year.

The left-wing New Popular Front alliance is projected to win 140 to 198 seats, according to the six surveys, while Macron’s group is on track for between 115 an 162.

France has been shaken by the prospect of the far right taking control of the government after spending more than 50 years keeping it at bay. It’s forced several other parties that had been at each other’s throats to swallow their animosity and come up with a largely unified electoral front in order to see off the threat.

The benchmark CAC 40 index is down about 4% since the last trading day in Paris before Macron called the snap vote on June 9, though it has rebounded some this week. France’s 10-year yield premium over safer German counterparts — a gauge of the nation’s risk — has retreated from a 12-year high of 86 basis points last week.

“I would not expect French stocks to claw back all the losses” in the short term, Goldman Sachs Senior European Equity Strategist Sharon Bell told Bloomberg Television. “The necessary reforms in order to bring down the deficit are much less likely to happen. All of that increases risks and worries about French debt.”

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The broadly positive mood across French markets shows investors are betting on what political analysts see as the most probable outcome, namely a technical or coalition government, according to ABN Amro Investment Solutions Chief Investment Officer Christophe Boucher.

“There is no anomaly in how the market is pricing what we call the ‘Belgian’ scenario, a sort of caretaker government which in the end brings some stability, which is what is sought by investors,” he told Bloomberg.

While the turmoil in the markets has calmed for now, there have been some tensions on the streets as campaigning ramps up ahead of Sunday. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there had been more than 50 attacks on politicians and activists, leading to some 30 arrests.

He told BFM TV on Friday the profiles of the attackers ranged from ultra-left and ultra-right militants to members of other political parties to individuals who appeared to have spontaneously lost their tempers. He has also previously warned of possible disorder on election night, when a number of gatherings are planned.

There are 501 districts still up for grabs in Sunday’s runoffs. The National Rally and its allies already won 39 races outright in the first round after they garnered 33.2% of the total vote.

Macron’s centrist alliance and the New Popular Front strategically pulled more than 200 candidates from ballots this week to avoid splitting opposition to the far right in an attempt at building what is known in France as the Republican front.

The latest projections suggest the strategy is working. Polling companies had previously given ranges that stretched as high as 305 seats for the National Rally and its allies after first-round voting ended last Sunday.

“In the first round we eliminated the risk of an absolute majority dominated by Jean-Luc Melenchon and France Unbowed,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told TF1 TV, referring to the far-left party. “In the second round we must now eliminate the risk of an absolute majority dominated by the far right and the National Rally.”

Ifop, Elabe, Toluna-Harris Interactive and Ipsos published polls on Friday, while Odoxa and OpinionWay released surveys on Thursday.

--With assistance from James Hirai.

(Updates seat ranges in fifth paragraph.)

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