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French electoral system could avoid another Trump moment: economist

The French electoral system could be the answer to preventing another populist politician leading one of the biggest economies in the world, an economist told CNBC on Friday.

In contrast to the U.S., French voters choose their next president in two rounds. Hélène Rey, economist at the London Business School, told CNBC in Davos that this should stop the far-right leader Marine Le Pen from becoming the next president of France.

"If we look at the recent polls it is true that Marine Le Pen has been polling first for the first round, but I will remind you that one of the very important characteristics of the French electoral system is that we have two rounds for the presidential election," Rey said.

In 2002, Le Pen's party made it to the second round. However, it ended up being "completely destroyed" by the center-right candidate Jacques Chirac, Rey said. She added that at the time, French voters united their support in the second round to vote against the far-right.

The French newspaper Le Monde published a projection this week giving between 25 and 26 percent support for Le Pen. She was followed by the Republican candidate Francois Fillon, with between 23 and 25 percent of the vote. Last month, Fillon was ahead of Le Pen.

If opinion polls are correct and Marine Le Pen wins the first round, there will be a similar outcome to the 2002 election, Rey told CNBC. "A lot of French people will vote against Le Pen," she said.

Marine Le Pen was seen at Trump Tower last week, but she did not confirm whether she was there to meet the soon-to-be U.S. president.

According to Rey, Le Pen has taken a "very aggressive" approach to social values, speaking against immigrants, but she has taken a more "extreme left" approach when it comes to economic issues.

"We have no budget constraints in mind, totally unrealistic propositions, very badly fleshed out, so this is very much a characteristic of this new populism," Rey explained.

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