Le Pen Seeks Majority as French Rivals Rush to Pull Candidates

(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen is seeking support beyond her far-right National Rally party in case she falls short of an absolute majority as mainstream parties move to block her from taking control in Sunday’s runoff.

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“If we’re just a few members of parliament away from a majority, we’ll try to go find them,” Le Pen told France Inter radio Tuesday. “We’re going to go and see the others, and we’re going to say to them: ‘Are you ready to join us in a new majority?’”

National Rally and its allies dominated the first round of voting two days ago, getting 33.2% of the vote. The left-wing New Popular Front alliance got 28%, while President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition won 20.8%.

Some projections Sunday night indicated the far-right party may be able to reach the 289-seat threshold in the National Assembly that would give it an absolute majority. Since then, the other parties have been pulling candidates from electoral districts with more than two people qualifying for the second round in an effort to stop that from happening.

Macron’s centrist alliance and the New Popular Front have until this evening to pull candidates from Sunday’s runoffs. Traditionally, France’s mainstream has banded together to keep the far right — which has never held power in the modern French republic — out of government.

So far, 208 candidates have dropped out — 127 from the left and 75 from Macron’s group — according to French newspaper Le Monde. That still leaves 104 three-way runoffs. In the first round, in cases where no one was directly elected with more than 50%, the threshold to stay in the race was 12.5% of the total number of those eligible to vote. In the second round, the person with the biggest score wins.

Le Pen’s party and its allies won 39 seats outright and made it to the second round in 446 districts, coming first in 258 of them, according to Franceinfo radio.

French bonds rose as the day progressed, with traders pointing to headlines on the number of election candidates that have dropped out so far. The yield gap between French and German 10-year bonds fell to the lowest since June 14.

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“The only ones able to have an absolute majority today are the National Rally,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told reporters on Tuesday. “We have to stop that. That means that in certain constituencies, it’s necessary to vote not for a candidate but rather against the National Rally.”

He said Macron’s party and its allies are still putting forward names in several hundred districts but that in some “where keeping our third-placed candidate would have helped the far right win, the candidates are withdrawing.”

National Rally President Jordan Bardella has said he won’t take up the post of prime minister unless the party has an absolute majority, which would make it easier to pass legislation and survive any no-confidence vote brought by the opposition. It is accepted practice that the president nominates a premier from the largest group, although he’s not legally bound to do so.

A minority government would need to attract like-minded partners in parliament on a case-by-case basis to get new laws through.

Attal said more than 100 bills had been passed since Macron lost his own absolute majority in the last legislative elections two years ago, adding that he believes there are enough lawmakers from the right, center and left who would get behind certain projects.

“It means extending our hand and governing differently,” as well as moving beyond “artificial divisions,” he said.

The potential for a hung parliament raises the possibility of a broad, minority government, according to former Bank of France Governor Jean-Claude Trichet.

“A technocratic government is not in the French tradition at all. It might be a solution in other countries, namely Italy,” Trichet, who was also the European Central Bank chief, told Bloomberg Television. “In France it is not the case because we are in a totally different political framework.”

--With assistance from Rachel Evans.

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