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Bannon’s boosting of Le Pen will cost her, regulators rule

Alberto Pizzoli, AFP | US president's former strategist Steve Bannon poses upon his arrival at the headquarters of strategic consultancy Comin & Partners in Rome on March 25, 2019, to take part in a debate on Europe.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s public praise of politician Marine Le Pen must be counted as air time for her National Rally party under rules mandating equal coverage of candidates on television and radio during election campaigns in France.

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Steve Bannon has been busy talking up far-right politician Marine Le Pen, who is hoping to upstage French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) in this weekend’s European Parliament elections, receiving journalists in his Paris hotel suite during his recent visit to France, and turning up on all-news channel BFM TV.

That, the Superior Audiovisual Council, ruled on Wednesday, counts as air time for the National Rally under France’s strict regulations intended to ensure that political candidates get equal time on television and radio during campaigns.

“Her resilience, given that she has managed to come back from her failure in 2017, and the way in which she has given a new identity to the Front National, everything that she has done in terms of leading her party - I find it quite remarkable,” Bannon told BFM TV.

Under the equal time rules, any speech in favor of a candidate or party, including interviews with foreign dignitaries, intellectuals and ordinary people, counts as air time.

Le Pen denied links to Bannon or, indeed, even knowing he was in town. But Bannon has been working closely with senior officials from the National Rally for well over a year now. The Brink, a documentary about Bannon, filmed him meeting with them both in Europe and in Washington, D.C., where they flew to watch the midterm election results come in together.

And Bannon himself confirmed the ties, saying he was an "informal adviser" for the National Rally, working on a "voluntary" basis.

In 2017 Bannon established The Movement, a Brussels-based organisation to promote right-wing populism in Europe. The success of the National Rally is a key part of his strategy.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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