France's Le Pen struggling to raise funds for election campaign

French far-right Front National (FN) party president, member of European Parliament and candidate for French 2017 presidential election Marine Le Pen (C) visits a Christmas market in Paris, France, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen does not have the funds she needs for her presidential election campaign next year, as banks continue to decline to lend to her National Front for political reasons, a senior party official said on Monday.

National Front Secretary General Nicolas Bay told Europe 1 radio he had sought a loan of about 27 million euros ($28 million) for the presidential and legislative campaigns next year “from among banking establishments in France, Europe and around the world.”

He said French banks were refusing to lend the party money. “That poses a problem of discrimination based on political opinions,” he said.

A Societe Generale spokesman said the bank systematically refused requests for loans from political parties, citing good business and political neutrality as the two reasons.

Credit Agricole , BPCE and Credit Mutuel did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while BNP Paribas and the French banking federation declined to comment. The French media have in the past published letters from French banks refusing loans to National Front.

Le Pen has the support of around a quarter of French voters according to opinion polls, but campaign funding has long been an issue.

In 2014 it emerged that the party had received a 9 million euro loan from a Russian lender.

Potential Russian involvement in western elections has become a sensitive issue since U.S. intelligence agencies accused their Russian counterparts of seeking to influence the U.S. election through hacking, something Moscow has denied.

Reporting by Gerard Bon, Andrew Callus and Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Robin Pomeroy/Sudip Kar-Gupta