Is everyone too complacent about Marine Le Pen’s chances of becoming the next President of France?

Chris Beauchamp and John Gaffney
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Polls show Le Pen would lose in the second round of the French presidential elections (Source: Getty)

Chris Beauchamp, senior market analyst at IG Group, says Yes.

It feels like deja vu all over again. A year ago, the established punditry found themselves declaring, with immense confidence, why Brexit would never happen and why Donald Trump was doomed to fail in his candidacy. Now we hear the same about Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National.

The wave of populism has not broken yet. It is easy to see a scenario in which European economic growth takes a turn southward early next year, unemployment rises and financial markets move into crisis again. At this point, Le Pen’s brand of nationalism and her anti-EU rhetoric could find renewed strength among French voters.

It is not certain that Francois Fillon’s Thatcherite medicine – which includes promises to shrink France’s labour code, cut 500,000 jobs from the public sector and abandon the 35-hour working week – will go down well in parts of France still wedded to all-round state provision of services.

After Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum, fourth time may not be the charm.

John Gaffney, professor of politics at Aston University, and co-director of the Aston Centre for Europe, says No.

Fillon is the worst possible thing that could happen to Le Pen. His candidacy comes at the end of five years of ineffective Socialist government, mounting unemployment, an overblown bureaucracy and a stagnant economy – all the reasons why Le Pen’s popularity has been growing.

He is closer to many of the issues which the far right has tried to champion, such as immigration, preserving French “identity”, abortion and gay marriage. Moreover, he has a long experience of mainstream politics and government, while Le Pen has none at all; she would have trouble even finding enough people to fill ministerial posts.

The French will think twice before voting for her over Fillon. He would win a landslide majority in legislative elections which follow the presidential contest. Le Pen currently has two MPs; the public knows her election would provoke a dramatic constitutional crisis where she would be a President who was unable to govern.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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