French far-right leader says withheld funds doom her party
Jul. 08, 2018
PARIS (AP) — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen lashed out Sunday at a decision to withhold the payment of a public subsidy for her party, saying it amounted to "certain death" for the National Rally.
Le Pen said two judges decided Friday to withhold a payment of 2 million euros, or nearly half of the 4.5 million-euro subsidy the party was allocated for the year. The funds were due for disbursement Monday.
The judges made the decision amid an investigation into whether funds for European Parliament assistants were misused. Politicians from other French parties also have been accused of misusing such funds.
Le Pen said the subsidy was already six months overdue and was essential for the party, formerly called the National Front, to meet its running costs, notably salaries and rent.
"In confiscating our public subsidy without a judgment in this pseudo-affair of assistants, the investigating judges are applying the death penalty as a precautionary measure," tweeted Le Pen, who advanced to the runoff of France's 2017 presidential election before losing to Emmanuel Macron. She added that the withheld funds amounted to a "will to assassinate the main opposition party."
Political parties in France receive state funding based on the proportion of the vote the party won in the most recent elections and how many seats it holds in parliament.
Le Pen said in an open letter to National Rally supporters that the judges' move was politically motivated. She said her party had only enough money to see it through the end of August and that a website would be set up Sunday evening "to financially save the national movement."
"Faced with this infamy, I call on the French people for a peaceful and civil resistance, but a resistance that is active and militant," she said.
Le Pen also warned other party leaders "of the dangers of a vile process which will expose them, in turn, sooner or later."
Last month, a top European Union court ruled that Le Pen had to return 300,000 euros to the European Parliament for funds incorrectly paid to an assistant. The case dates back to Le Pen's time representing the National Front in the EU parliament from 2009-2017.
An investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office concluded that funds meant to pay a parliamentary assistant were "unduly paid" to a National Front assistant. Le Pen appealed the ruling, denying that the money had been misdirected.
The General Court of the EU dismissed Le Pen's appeal, saying "she did not prove the effectiveness of that assistant's work."