French elections: How much power will the president have? - HSBC

Olivier Vigna, Economist at HSBC, suggests that their central scenario is unchanged as the polls show Le Pen will lose in the 2nd round.

Key Quotes

“To date, no poll has indicated that National Front leader Le Pen will win the French presidential election on 7 May. Polls do suggest she may win the first round (23 April), but say she will then be defeated in the run-off, either by the centrist independent Emmanuel Macron or the centre-right Republican Francois Fillon, despite his recent difficulties.”

But a number of important events in the next few weeks could change this

  • There is still a chance that socialist Benoit Hamon and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon may join forces and seek to combine their votes into a single ticket. If so, this would increase their chances of reaching the second round. This scenario would result in a run-off between a far-right and a far-left candidate. 
  • Other key variables may also include potential swings in public opinion between now and 7 May, voter turnout and vote transfers. In particular, any event affecting core concerns (employment, social security, crime, terrorism) could impact voters’ preferences all the way up to the very last days of the campaign.”

“The National Assembly may play a bigger-than-expected role in French policies

  • Mr Macron has no political party to back him in Parliament. If he won, he would therefore need the support of large number of lawmakers from other parties to support his policies. 
  • Mr Fillon may also face challenges to push through his agenda. On 1 March, he announced that he may be placed under formal investigation by judges on 15 March, two days before the deadline for applications. If elected, he would have presidential immunity. But his image and overall support may have suffered from the allegations over misuse of public funds that prompted the investigation. News reports (BBC) on 5 March indicated that senior Republican party members would meet on 6 March to discuss whether he should continue his campaign.   
  • If elected, Marine Le Pen would also need to negotiate with other better-anchored political parties in the Lower House. The National Front had only 2 out of 577 MPs in the last 2012 parliamentary elections and so gaining a large number of seats would require a significant turnaround. For the National Assembly to pass a confidence vote in a Le Pen government, she may need to compromise with lawmakers from other parties. Without it, she could receive a censure vote, forcing her to change her choice of prime minister to one backed by the National Assembly. Therefore, a ‘cohabitation’ in the event of a Le Pen presidency looks very likely.”

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