National Front leader Marine Le Pen is struggling to raise the 20 million euros ($21 million) she needs to fund French presidential and legislative campaigns in 2017 after the party’s Russian lender failed, the party treasurer said. The Central Bank of Russia revoked the license of the National Front’s Moscow-based lender First Czech Russian Bank OOO in July and the party has still to find another backer, according to treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just. Saint Just said he’s seeking international financiers in countries including Russia because French banks have refused to fund his party. “The loss of the FCRB was a hard blow for us,” Saint Just said in a telephone interview. “The Russia loan was a stable resource. Now we are still searching for loans.” Le Pen’s ties with Russia have come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid reports that the CIA concluded that President Vladimir Putin directed hackers to buoy the candidacy of Donald Trump in the U.S. Le Pen is running second in the race to become France’s next president and is openly supportive of Putin’s military operations in Syria and his annexation of Crimea.
FCRB lent the National Front 9 million euros in 2014. In the same year, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s political fund Cotelec received another 2 million-euro loan from a Russian-backed fund based in Cyprus, news website Mediapart reported. Saint Just said Cotelec helped fund the party’s 2015 regional campaign.
Le Pen wouldn’t have any problem in getting a Russian loan but has apparently decided the risks outweigh the benefits because she’d be hounded for this by the French media, said Sergei Markov, a political consultant to the Kremlin administration.
“Le Pen doesn’t want to endanger her chances,” Markov said by phone. While Russia sees the conservative candidate Francois Fillon as a strong presidential contender, it also doesn’t rule out a far-right victory, he said.