The French trust Marine Le Pen’s RN on the economy

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Despite unfunded tax cuts and spending plans and a lack of government experience, French voters trust the far-right Confederation National to manage the economy and public finances.

The results of an Ipsos poll for the Financial Times show an uphill battle facing Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition ahead of the June 30 election. The coalition’s campaign strategy centered on convincing voters that installing a far-right or left-wing government would wreck the economy. And eventually the swinging line rises.

The June 19-20 survey found that 25 percent of respondents had more confidence in Marine Le Pen’s RN, while the left-wing New Popular Front had 22 percent and 20 percent said they would make the right decisions on economic matters. For Macron’s coalition.

RN has been at the forefront of improving living standards, tackling inflation and reducing taxes. Notably, it topped the reduction in unemployment, a major victory for Macron’s presidency last year when unemployment fell to a 15-year low.

And strikingly, 23 percent said they trusted the RN more to reduce the public deficit and debt. Macron’s coalition and the NPF, which has broad tax and spending plans, was at 17 percent.

The data appear to support the message Macron campaign workers say they hear on the doorstep: After trying everything else, voters are ready to try the RN.

„This dynamic is undoubtedly linked to the RN’s „normalization” strategy, but also to the disillusionment of the left under President François Hollande and later Macronism, and to the left’s difficulties in providing a credible and coherent opposition to Macron,” said Mathieu Gallard, a pollster at Ipsos.

„In this context, the RN is seen as a party that, if not efficient, is at least no less efficient than other political organizations.”

The far-right fought the 2022 presidential election with policies that would cost independence €100bn a year. Jordan Bardella, the RN leader and its prime ministerial candidate, has walked back those promises in recent days and said he would first audit public finances.

But the party is committed to immediately cutting value-added tax on energy and fuel and reversing Macron’s increase in the retirement age from 64 to 62. Those two policies alone cost €20-30bn a year, according to analysts.

Economists caution that RN programs lack any serious revenue-enhancing programs.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s former chief economist, called the RN programs „financially irresponsible. The gifts cost money. There is no money, at least not in the program.

Macron’s allies are trying to portray themselves as the only credible party in government and their opponents as irresponsible.

The RN’s experience of power extends to running two small towns in the south of the country.

“Seven years’ work may be undone by the results of seven days . . . Do not succumb to the siren calls of the RN,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told a gathering of French business leaders last week.

The government is targeting the economic credentials of the NFP, a far-left party known as La France Insoumise, which includes centre-left socialists, greens and communists.

On Friday, the NFP outlined new spending plans worth €150bn over the three years to 2027. The left-wing coalition said its plans would not increase the size of the deficit.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is leading the three-party coalition campaign, said the left’s plans were „tax evasion”. Blanchard lines “may be almost Confiscation in nature”.

But Macron’s government, which provides continuity, has left itself open to attacks on its own management of the economy, having overseen France’s deficit rise to 5.5 percent of GDP, the second highest in the euro zone. Debt to GDP is 110 percent.

Inflation has also eroded the government’s reputation for improving living standards, which Ipsos polls show is a priority for voters.

32 percent said this was the most important factor in deciding their vote, compared to 20 percent for the economy and public finance. 30 percent of voters trust the RN the most, compared to 29 percent for the NFP and just 16 percent for Macron’s coalition.

Gallard said the findings were „really devastating for the presidential party, which has no real strength to come forward.”

In terms of voting intentions for the first round, Ipsos trailed the RN at 34 per cent, the NFP at 27 per cent and the centrists at 21 per cent. The latest seat projections suggest France will carry the RN as the largest party to a hung parliament.

The survey involved 2,000 registered voters aged 18 and over.

Additional reporting by Janina Conboy

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