Markets, EU, Biden Brace for France's Election Result Sunday Marine Le Pen (Laurence Agron/Dreamstime)
Much of the financial and political worlds are bracing themselves for the first round of voting in France's presidential election Sunday.
The major story that will almost certainly emerge from the French balloting is the never-anticipated big showing of nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.
Should Le Pen — a longtime critic of the Euopean Union and opponent of illegal immigration— emerge as one of the top two vote-getters Sunday and head for the runoff April 24, it is almost a foregone conclusion there will be some voices of opposition from Brussels, Washington, D.C., and financial markets worldwide.
LePen's reputation as a "Euroskeptic" is almost certain to engender some harsh words and perhaps an endorsement of her runoff opponent by several EU leaders. In addition, President Joe Biden might actually weigh in with words of praise for Macron — whom the U.S. president reportedly admirers for his 13 meetings with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Five years after she lost decisively to President Emmanuel Macron, LePen is now in a near-tie with the embattled incumbent. BFM TV's just-completed survey of likely voters nationwide shows Macron edging LePen by 26% to 25%.
Trailing them are far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 17.5%, author and anti-illegal immigrant activist Éric Zemmour 8.5%, and Les Republicans (conservative) candidate Valérie Pécresse 8%.
Under French election law, should no candidate emerge with a majority, a runoff will be held between the two top vote-getters in two weeks. BFM TV's recent poll of voters in a runoff shows Macron eking out a lead over LePen of 51% to 49% — light years from the 2017 election in which first-time office-seeker Macron demolished LePen by 66% to 34%.
Economics, rising inflation, and voters' frustration over the government's response to COVID-19 have fueled Le Pen's rise in the polls.
"Marine Le Pen gained the advantage because she positioned herself early on spending power of French which is threatened by high inflation," Jeanne Dusseil, a French economic journalist, told Newsmax. "Inflation is everywhere since there has been big public spending to stop COVID."
Le Pen has also continued the effort to detoxify her party and reputation as an extremist. She no longer favors dropping the euro as France's currency, but she remains opposed to open borders and embraces the protectionist view on trade.
Those two positions — on immigration and trade — have caused recent fears in financial capitals about Le Pen and the prospect she could be elected president, the Financial Times reported Thursday.
"Shares in BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and Crédit Agricole fell by 4-6% in afternoon trading, while bonds were buffeted by the heightened political risks [that Le Pen might actually win]," according to the Times.
The nationalist hopeful has also sent shock waves through the financial community with her calls for a new wealth tax and more funding for police and prisons.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.