While the French presidential election is seen as one of the biggest political risks of 2017, the country’s finance minister is confident that it won’t be won by the leader of the far-right National Front.
“I don’t know who will be the president of the Republic in France – this is maybe the first time I don’t know, but I know this won’t be Mrs. (Marine) Le Pen and I know this will be someone European and favorable to European construction,” Michel Sapin, finance and economy minister for France, told CNBC Friday according to the translation.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany, the French minister said that France and its election was one of the three political risks currently in Europe. The other two risks concerned the Netherlands – which Sapin admitted was now over – and Germany.
“(When it comes to the Netherlands) the risk is behind us: we saw that when it is about fighting, not populism, but fighting extreme right-wing movements, then there are large majorities in our countries to say ‘No’ and put aside those movements. I’m convinced that this is what will happen in France.”
Next month, French citizens will head to the polls to vote in the first round of the elections.
According to recent polls, Le Pen is seen as being a strong contender for the first stage, however in the second round – due in May – polls suggest that the centrist politician Emmanuel Macron will go on to beat the anti-EU National Front leader.
The likelihood of a Le Pen victory may be regarded as slim by many analysts, however markets have remained on edge, especially with the rise of populist rhetoric seen worldwide in the past year.
In fact, even though the Netherlands didn’t vote in far-right candidate Geert Wilders, UBS analysts wrote in a note this week that investors should remain on guard, saying they still saw a 40 percent chance of a Le Pen victory.
However for Sapin, he believes voters from France’s left, right and center will come together to “put Mrs. Le Pen on the side” and reassure the world of what France and its principles stand for.
“I think that anyone can measure that in our deeply democratic countries, even if they are hurt when they see a very high number of voters turning to extreme right-wing movements, they know how to react. France will know how to react,” said Sapin.
“Voters from the left, right and center will know to react with one concern – put Mrs. Le Pen on the side, reassure what France is, its principles but also reassure from an economic, financial, budgetary, European point of view. Reassure on the future of the euro, reassure on all these points and we will have the opportunity to do so.”
“We need to show to the rest of the world that the extreme right, extreme right-wing nationalism, extremism, including xenophobic extremism is not France and we should all unite to put them aside.”