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Front National gasps for air under huge debt burden

France's cash-strapped far-right Front National, lead by Jean-Marie Le Pen (photo) may lose its annual subsidy of nearly two million euros for failing to repay its massive debts.

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France’s extreme-right Front National (FN) will have its 2010 annual government subsidy seized by a court bailiff for non-repayment of a massive debt, according to French newspaper Le Parisien.

The FN owes 7.5 million euros to a creditor who helped finance its campaign in the 2007 legislative elections - in which the party won no seats and accounted for 4.29 percent of the vote, its worst score ever.

Following legal action by creditor Ferdinand Le Rachinel, the FN’s annual subsidy of 1.8 million euros is to be appropriated by the bailiff even before it lands in party coffers, the newspaper reports.

Double whammy of woe

All political parties in France receive cash from the government proportional to their results in previous legislative elections.

But for the FN, its poor results in 2007 were a double whammy of financial misfortune. Firstly, its annual subsidy fell because its results were much worse than in the previous elections. Secondly, campaign costs in France are only reimbursed if a party gets more than five percent of the votes, which the FN singularly failed to do.

Not getting the subsidy for 2010 is a serious blow to the FN – last year the money made up half of the party’s income and its existing debt of some eight million euros is costing 40,000 euros a month just to service, according to Le Parisien.

In a bid to raise cash and reduce costs, the party, led by octogenarian firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, put its headquarters building on the market in spring 2008, moving everyone to smaller premises. No buyer has been found.

The Paris HQ, known as Le Paquebot (meaning cruise ship), is advertised at 15 million euros. According to Le Parisien, its real value is closer to 10 million.

No lame duck

Despite Le Pen’s money worries, the FN, which is very much part of the French political landscape, should certainly not be written off as a lame duck.

The party historically does better in local elections, which are due for March, than in national and European polls (it got 6.34 percent in the last round of European voting).

Le Pen’s daughter Marine, an MEP who is increasingly the public face of the FN, last week called for a “national re-conquest” of France by the FN in the March poll.

An opinion poll carried out by TNS-Sofres Logica last week showed that although the FN's popularity is falling, 18 percent of French people still support Le Pen’s hardline stance on immigration and 44 percent believe there are too many immigrants in France.

 

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