The 1st round of the French elections will take place on Sunday, 23 April.
In our view, the key issues motivating the electorate this time around are:
- Credibility on job creation and the reduction of the tax burden
- A strong leader
- A louder voice in Europe, but not an immediate FREXIT
- Improvements in the education system
Here is our interpretation of the likelihood of the more probable scenarios (in order of probability) of the candidates reaching the 2nd round:
1: Macron vs. Le Pen >> most likely winner – Macron
Assuming that the current opinion polls prove as accurate as they have been in the past, Macron and Le Pen pass to the second round, but Le Pen struggles to find new votes to back her campaign, while Macron is likely to be able to mobilise the Fillon voters, in our view.
2: Fillon vs. Le Pen >> most likely winner – Fillon
It may be that the Penelope scandal has not shifted voters’ preferences as much as opinion polls are suggesting, simply reducing the number of voters that are willing to admit that they will vote for Fillon. Similar to the first scenario, Macron voters are likely to back Fillon, while Le Pen will struggle to gain new votes.
3: Macron vs. Melenchon >> most likely winner – Melenchon
In this case, Melenchon surprises and reaches the 2nd round as those that would have voted for Hamon or for one of the smaller left-wing parties decide to switch to a more likely winner. In the second round, Macron would be likely to get the support of the Fillon voters, while Melenchon could be backed by those that voted for the more radical parties, Hamon and probably some of the Le Pen voters as well. In the second round, Melenchon may trigger higher participation of both young and elderly voters.
4: Fillon vs. Melenchon >> a very tight race, Fillon could secure the presidency
This would be a race between two strong men, in our view, with the winner decided by the Le Pen voters, who are split between those that have a left-leaning bias and those that would respond to the pro-business part of Fillon’s programme, in our view.
5: Le Pen vs. Melenchon >> most likely winner – Melenchon
We see this as a very unlikely scenario, but one that would see Melenchon prevail as the Macron and Fillon voters would not be likely to back either Le Pen or Melenchon, while Melenchon may get the support of the Hamon voters and those that currently prefer the more extremist candidates.
6: Macron vs. Fillon >> a very tight race, Fillon could secure the presidency
Last and least likely scenario: it is not inconceivable that Fillon’s approval rating would return to the pre-Penelope gate levels, which is higher than Le Pen’s by a very thin margin. In this scenario the race could prove very tight, with a low voter turnout. Although opinion polls currently show Macron winning by a wide margin against Fillon, we are not convinced: Macron could benefit from some of Hamon’s voters support, but Fillon could theoretically move some of Le Pen’s voter base that is looking for a strong, effective and Catholic leader. We thus give slightly better odds to Fillon in this scenario.