The French go to the polls on 23rd April to elect a new president. There are 11 candidates in the race and the top two will battle it out in a second ballot on 7th May. In the unlikely event that one candidate receives a first-round majority of more than 50%, the winner will be declared without holding a second round.
Out of all the contenders for president, there are five that currently appear to stand the most realistic chance of final victory – and each have their own vision of France’s place in Europe.
Where do the candidates stand on the EU?
Jean-Luc Mélenchon founded his own far-left movement, the Left Party, in 2008. Once a fervent supporter of European federalism, he is now a critic of the EU’s economic liberalism and wants to withdraw France from many of the organisation’s free-trade agreements.
Benoît Hamon, from France’s ruling Socialist Party, wants the EU to “turn its back on blind austerity.” He plans to do this by bringing all EU policies relating to Eurozone convergence and conditionality under the auspices of a parliamentary assembly of MPs and MEPs.
Emmanuel Macron, established his own centrist party, En Marche! (On the Move) with the aim of making France more business-friendly. His policies include reinvigorating the Eurozone by driving closer political integration across member countries.
François Fillon, from the centre-right Republican Party, has promised to restructure French politics from the ground up and bring far-reaching reforms to the Euro and the EU. He is highly critical of the EU, describing the institution as “at best, ineffective, useless and irrelevant and at worst an obstacle to our development and freedom.”
Marine Le Pen leads the far-fight, anti-EU National Front. She praised the UK’s vote for Brexit and vowed that Frexit would be next. If elected, she says she would renegotiate France’s position with the EU, then put membership of the EU and the Euro to a public referendum.
Could the radical rhetoric become reality?
According to Marine Le Pen, the European Union is in a state of collapse, with the Euro at the centre of the debacle. She believes that France must prepare for the “inevitable” disintegration of the EU, and that includes exiting the Euro.
However, for Le Pen to win the second round of voting, she will need to attract a large number of centre-right voters, many of whom consider the Euro to be of benefit to the French economy. As a result, the National Front leader has been trying to soften some of her more extreme anti-EU comments by stressing that she would only take France out of the EU and the Euro if the French public voted for it in a referendum.
Despite warm feelings of a majority of the French population towards the EU and the Euro, the promise of letting the public decide on Frexit could placate enough of the electorate to propel Le Pen to the presidency. However, a referendum may do little to calm economic analysts who know what happened in Britain after David Cameron made a similar manifesto promise.
Latest polls show no clear winner
At the time of writing, Emmanuel Macron is edging ahead in polling for the first round of voting. With Hamon on 7%, Mélenchon on 18.5%, Fillon on 19.5%, Le Pen on 22.5% and Macron on 24%, centrist Emmanuel Macron, is currently the favourite to become French President – but with such a small lead over Le Pen, the outcome is still very unpredictable.
The French elections are one more potentially destabilising event in another year of uncertainty across Europe. With considerable disquiet about the Euro still present in Greece and Italy, and impending elections in Germany, the repercussions for the foreign exchange market are far from certain.
Whoever succeeds in becoming the next French president, with one of the largest economies in the EU, a change in leadership is likely to have an impact on the value of the Euro. Whether that is a strengthening or a weakening influence is less easy to predict. With HiFX to support your international money transfers, however, you could have peace of mind whatever surprises are in store for the foreign exchange markets.
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