Le Pen claims far right will win absolute majority and take over military decisions

National Rally leader says Macron ‘won’t have choice’ but to appoint her protege as PM and he would make decisions on supporting Ukraine

Marine Le Pen has said she expects her far-right National Rally (RN) party to win an absolute majority in France’s general election, form a government and take over at least some defence and armed forces decision-making – including on Ukraine.

France’s constitution states that the president is head of the armed forces and chairs France’s national defence committees, but also that the prime minister is “responsible for national defence”, leaving the precise role of the premier open to interpretation.

Emmanuel Macron will remain president after the two-round snap elections on 30 June and 7 July but polls suggest he will face a uniquely hostile parliament dominated by two radical blocs, RN and the leftist New Popular Front (NFP) alliance.

Le Pen’s far-right party is projected to be the largest force in the new parliament, although is far from certain to win an outright majority. The latest polling projects that it and its allies could secure 220 to 260 seats in the 577-seat national assembly.

In an interview with the local newspaper Le Telegramme de Brest, Le Pen said Macron “won’t have much choice” but to appoint her protege, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, as prime minister because “he will have a mandate from the French people”.

Le Pen said Bardella, who has no experience in government, would aim to be firm but not hostile to the president, whose term runs until 2027. “Jordan has no intention of picking a fight with [Macron], but his red lines are clear,” she said.

She suggested that serving as commander-in-chief of France’s armed forces “is an honorary title for the president, since it’s the prime minister who holds the purse strings”, and added: “On Ukraine, the president will not be able to send troops.”

Macron caused diplomatic uproar in March when he warned the west against showing any sign of weakness to Russia and said Ukraine’s allies should not rule out sending western troops to Ukraine to help the country fight against Russia’s aggression.

The US and key EU allies subsequently said they had no plans to send ground troops to Ukraine. Francois Bayrou, a heavyweight former minister who heads a party allied to Macron, said Le Pen’s remarks were a “deep challenge to the constitution”.

Attending a European summit in Brussels, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he was confident that France’s next government would “continue to support Ukraine” and be independent from Russian influence, whatever its composition.

After a years-long “detoxification” process led by Le Pen, RN now presents itself as a champion of the oppressed ordinary French people – although it has rowed back on some of its costlier proposals to allay concerns about their impact on the economy.

“We’re reasonable people,” Le Pen said. “People should stop thinking the world is going to come to an end.” But the party remains fiercely anti-immigrant, proposing to cut or cancel welfare access for non-nationals and tighten citizenship rules.

The French basketball star Victor Wembanyama, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, on Thursday joined other celebrity sporting figures including the footballer Kilian Mbappé in saying France should avoid voting for “extremes” in the elections.

“Of course, political choices are personal, but for me it is important to take a distance from extremes, which are not the direction to take for a country like ours,” said Wembanyama, who is expected to represent France at the Paris Olympics.

Mbappé, who is captaining France at the European championships in Germany, said this month that the country “needs to identify with the values of diversity and tolerance”, adding that he wanted “to be proud to wear the shirt of my country on 7 July”.

Reflecting concerns about the possible economic impact of a new government, a survey showed 36% of small and medium-sized French companies would delay investments and recruitment if RN won a majority, and 58% if the NFP was the victor.

More than 80% of the company bosses surveyed said they opposed proposals by both parties to lower the retirement age, while 78% warned that raising public spending, as RN and NFP both plan to do, would risk sending the country into bankruptcy.