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The first round of France’s presidential election was seen as a major achievement for the Europhiles, who are hanging their hat on a victory for Emmanuel Macron. The pro-European Union (EU) centrist secured 24% of the popular vote during the first round of voting, pitting him against far-right Marine Le Pen in a winner-take-all runoff this Sunday.

For investors, a vote for Macron is a vote for stability in Europe at a time of growing upheaval. His election would not only ensure that France remains part of the euro, it would maintain the integrity of the EU, which is about to go to battle with the United Kingdom to secure a post-Brexit trade partnership.

Macron is widely expected to win the second-round runoff this Sunday, as he wields a tremendous campaign advantage now that Republican Francois Fillon and socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon are no longer in the picture. Latest polls show 61% of French voters back Macron, versus 39% who are in favour of Le Pen.

“I will fight up until the very last second not only against her program but also her idea of what constitutes democracy and the French Republic,” Macron recently said in an attempt to paint Le Pen as an extremist.

On the other end of the spectrum, Le Pen has described Macron as an elitist who is out of touch with French voters.
“Emmanuel Macron is just Francois Hollande who wants to stay and who is hanging on to power like a barnacle,” Le Pen said while campaigning north of Paris.[1]

Macron’s campaign received a boost last week after Fillon urged his supporters to vote for the centrist in the second-round runoff. Addressing his electorate in a concession speech after the initial vote, Fillon said voters need to unite to prevent extremist views from dominating the Elysee Palace.[2]

Fillon’s camp secured 20% of the popular vote in the April 23 election.

Although Macron is widely expected to prevail this weekend, it would be foolish to count out Le Pen entirely. The far-right leader has made huge inroads in the 2017 election cycle and could be poised for an upset come Sunday. With nearly 40% of voters backing Fillon and Melenchon in the first round, no one really knows how many of them will abstain from casting their ballot on Sunday.

Melenchon attracted nearly 20% of French voters on April 23. Analysts describe his platform as radically Eurosceptic, which has more similarities with Le Pen than Macron.[3]

 

[1] The Irish Times (May 1, 2017). “French election poll: Macron leads Le Pen by 61% to 39%.”

[2] Chloe Farand (April 23, 2017). “French election: Conservative Francois Fillon says vote for Emmanuel Macron to keep Marine Le Pen out.” Independent UK.

[3] Darrel Delamaide (April 24, 2017). “Opinion: Don’t write off Le Pen’s chances in French runoff.” MarketWatch.

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