The first round of the French elections is complete with two candidates advancing into the second round: Emmanuel Macron with 24% of the votes and Marine Le Pen with 22%. Voter turnout was average, which ultimately favored Emmanuel Macron rather than the feared Marine Le Pen.
It is very likely that Emmanuel Macron will be the next French President after the second round of elections on May 7, 2017.
Emmanuel Macron, 39 years old, was relatively unknown to the public just three years ago. He was Minister of the Economy for two years ending in 2016 at which point he started his centrist party En Marche! He is business friendly, wants to cut payroll taxes and improve education, raise defense spending, but most importantly he is consistently Pro-European. Macron’s economic strategy involves a "new growth model" using €50bn over five years in new investment and reform to fund (oddly familiar?). He wants to reduce public spending by over €60bn per year by the end of five years and favors a Eurozone parliament.
If Macron wins on May 7, then he will need parliamentary support to push an agenda. His party, En Marche!, will hope to gain a majority of the 577 seats in the two-round parliamentary elections on June 11 and 18. If En Marche! cannot secure a majority, then the resulting "cohabitation" between En Marche! President Macron and a prime minister of another party could make it more difficult to push through a market friendly agenda.
If Macron is President on May 8, then the near-term risks clearly subside simply based on his distinctly pro-European policies. Still, something is amiss as the two Eurosceptic candidates, Le Pen and Mélenchon, jointly capture over 40% of the votes. Globally populism is "a thing" with the exact reason baffling even the most dedicated global policy makers. A guess points to likely macro and micro factors pushing populism. On the macro front, global wealth inequalities, technology, "globalization", and the rise of lower-paying service sector jobs are all candidates that could be driving populism trends. But on the micro front, even egalitarian France has political skeletons: a large population of North African migrants, sharp declines in public sector and manufacturing employment.
As the risk associated with the French elections is likely to pass if Macron ultimately wins, then the next set of elections slated in Europe will take more center stage: German elections in September and Italian elections likely early next year. Our view is that the German elections will be something of a non-issue. Merkel and her CDU/CSU party have gained lost ground against the opponent, SPD, and coincidentally the right AfD lost its momentum as it struggles with leadership. Italy is the larger risk with elections likely early next year and a popular Eurosceptic Five Star Movement.
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