July 9, 2018 / 1:54 PM / 7 days ago

Le Pen appeals French blocking order on 2 million euro subsidy

PARIS (Reuters) - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Monday she would challenge magistrates’ veto of a two-million-euro (1.80 million pounds) state subsidy payment to her National Rally, saying the decision could kill the party in a matter of weeks.

Marine Le Pen, National Rally (Rassemblement National) political party leader, attends a news conference at the party's headquarters in Nanterre near Paris, France, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The National Rally, known for decades as the National Front before changing names last month in a bid to shed a brand associated by many voters with racism and anti-Semitism, has struggled to make its voice heard since Le Pen last year lost the presidential election to centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen’s party filed an appeal on Monday against the decision to veto the subsidy, but the move stands unless there is a ruling to reverse it, with no outcome likely for weeks.

“This spells the death of the National Rally by August,” Le Pen told BFM television.

Seven of her party’s candidates, including herself, won seats in France’s lower house in parliamentary elections that took place on the heels of the May 2017 presidential vote.

Two magistrates are investigating allegations that the National Front had used money destined to parliamentary assistants for staff that were in effect working for the party.

Marine Le Pen, National Rally (Rassemblement National) political party leader, attends a news conference at the party's headquarters in Nanterre near Paris, France, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Le Pen said her party would not even be able to pay staff wages beyond July if the money - part of subsidies all political parties get under French election rules - was not handed over.

Her National Rally also needs the money, part of a total of some four million euros it was expected to receive in 2018, to prepare for European Parliament elections next year.

“We are running out of cash,” party treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just said.

Le Pen, who reiterated her position that her party had done nothing wrong with the European Parliament funding, said the subsidy veto was politically motivated and that the magistrates behind it were linked to left-wing organisations.

“It is a full-on attack on democracy,” she said.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation in December 2016 into whether her party spent money for purposes other than those intended. A judicial source confirmed that magistrates had blocked the subsidy disbursement.

Le Pen has in the past accused French banks of issuing a “banking fatwa” to silence her party by closing bank accounts of hers and the party.

She said on Monday she was launching a fundraising campaign on the internet to make up for vetoed subsidies. Party treasurer Saint-Just said 60,000 euros had been raised within a few hours.

Additional reporting by Sophie Louet, Ingrid Melander and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Brian Love and Mark Heinrich

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