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France's far-right National Rally plots path to power after snap vote call



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Snap election on June 30, July 7

Far-right RN leads opinion polls

RN looking for allies

Adds RN election leaflet in paragraph 15

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS, June 13 (Reuters) -France's far-right National Rally (RN) is negotiating with potential allies to form a team that could run the government should it win a snap election, bringing in representatives from its ranks and beyond, a lawmaker told Reuters on Thursday.

Opinion polls project that Marine Le Pen's RN could, for the first time, top the June 30 and July 7 vote, but without enough seats to win an absolute majority and govern on its own.

The snap election, called by President Emmanuel Macron after his centrist alliance was trounced by the RN in Sunday's European Parliament ballot, has upended French politics, with parties rushing to field candidates and prepare platforms.

For the anti-immigration, eurosceptic RN, the challenge is to transform popularity into a win at home, and to convince voters it can be trusted to govern after decades on the margins.

"All the work carried out by Marine Le Pen over the past years has turned us into a party that can be in government," RN lawmaker Laurent Jacobelli told Reuters.

"We've been working for months on a 'Matignon' plan," he said, referring to the prime minister's official residence. Part of that plan included fielding candidates for all of France's 577 constituencies said Jacobelli, who is also an RN spokesman.

He said dozens would come from the ranks of the conservative Republicans (LR), which is in the process of imploding after its leader, Eric Ciotti, called for an alliance with the RN. The rest of the party leadership rebelled and kicked him out.

LR sources have cast doubt on whether Ciotti could take that many LR candidates with him.

Jacobelli said that, while the RN does not have a shadow government with a full list of potential ministers, it was looking at a cabinet line-up from within and beyond party ranks.

"What we want to do is a national unity government," he said, using a term that usually applies to a wide range of parties but would likely include RN members, hardline conservatives and non-party affiliated candidates.

The RN has been kept out of power for decades by voters mistrustful of the far right and its radical policies, as well as by a decades-old consensus among mainstream parties to join forces against it.

But under Le Pen and new party leader Jordan Bardella, they have worked to detoxify their image and woo a growing number of voters across the board.


'FRANCE FIRST'

The RN calls for protectionist "France first" economic policies. It would restrict childcare benefits to French citizens and withdraw residency for migrants who are out of work for more than a year.

It has also proposed higher public spending, despite already significant levels of debt, threatening to further raise financing costs at banks.

An RN election leaflet, printed for the parliamentary vote, said that bringing down electricity prices and cutting VAT on gas and fuel to unspecified levels would be priorities, as would a "radical cut in immigration", being tough on crime and cutting red tape.

Meanwhile, France's weakened, long divided left-wing parties were holding talks, which some of them described as tense, to agree on a joint platform and on the details of a plan to share out constituencies in a bid not to lose too many.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal met his ministers and allies on Thursday to work on their own platform, and headed to northern France to start campaigning.

"I see many French people who are worried that the extremes could run the country," he told reporters. "We must convince them that we must choose our own path, which is a progressive, republican, democratic, social path."



Writing by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Tassilo Hummel, Zhifan Liu; Editing by Ros Russell, Angus MacSwan and Alex Richardson

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