French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has obtained a €10.6 million loan from a Hungarian bank to finance her presidential election campaign, according to RTL radio on Wednesday. This comes after the presidential candidate for Rassemblement National said she was having trouble obtaining bank loans at home.
Le Pen’s party has a track record of seeking questionable funding.
During the 2014 municipal elections, Le Pen’s party resorted to Russia’s First Czech-Russian Bank to finance its campaign to the tune of €9 million. A few years later, the bank shut down.
Back then, the news had sparked concerns that Le Pen, who said she is an admirer of President Vladimir Putin, promised a softer line on Russia over Ukraine, urging the West to drop economic sanctions on Moscow.
Earlier this week, interim president of her party Rassemblement national Jordan Bardella, mentioned the existence of a loan granted by “a European bank” to AFP, now revealed to be a Hungarian bank, whose name is hidden by party officials because of a “non-disclosure clause”.
The bank’s name will not be communicated out of respect for a “confidentiality clause”, and the party should not comment further on this information, according to RTL.
In October 2021, Marine Le Pen had made a trip to Budapest a few weeks after Éric Zemmour.
The sum of €10.6 million is a significant boost to Le Pen, who had been forced into a low-key election campaign because of the party’s limited finances and the reluctance of French banks to lend her money.
In France, election campaigns can be financed by membership fees and donations from individuals up to a limit of €4,600 per donor and per election making loans a vital source of finance.
After the election, a system of lump-sum reimbursement of expenses allows candidates and parties to recover part of the money spent on the campaign.
Candidates who reach the second round – and Le Pen currently looks set to do so – are reimbursed 47.5% of the spending limit set by decree. In 2017, this amount was €10.7 million.
In 2017, forced to finance herself from her father’s micro-party and a French financier, Le Pen complained of a “banking fatwa”.
In 2021, she alerted President Macron to the difficulty for some candidates – among them also Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Éric Zemmour – to access bank loans.
(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)