Populist Le Pen still too “frightening” to win French presidency: Pro

ALAIN JOCARD | AFP | Getty Images

As the battle heats up for this year's French presidential election, one expert says most voters still consider the right-wing National Front party headed by Marine Le Pen as too scary a prospect to run the country.

The French presidential election is run over two rounds of voting with the two most popular candidates from stage one in April pushed on for a head-to head vote in May.

Speaking from Paris Monday, Douglas Webber, Professor of Political Science at INSEAD, said his two picks for the run-off were Francois Fillon of the mainstream right and Front National leader Marine le Pen.

However he said the apparent rise of right-wing populism would not result in a Le-Pen presidency.

"It is true that she's expanded the support of the Front National very successfully in the course of the last five or six years since she controlled the party, but I think still for a great majority of French voters and citizens, the Front national remains a rather frightening political party," he said.

Webber said the left-wing candidates will likely not progress beyond round one as they eat in to each other's vote.

"The left wing vote will be split by at least three candidates; Melenchon on the extreme left, the socialist candidate Manuel Valls and more to the center-left if you like, Mr (Emmanuel) Macron."

Fillon the favorite

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon
Frederic Stevens | Getty

Even though Webber tipped the run-off to take place between two right wing candidates, he said he found it unlikely that Le Pen could then win.

"If the second round is between Fillon and Le Pen then potentially many voters will abstain from voting for Fillon but I still don't think Le Pen will get very close to the presidency," he said.

Webber added that while he favors Fillon to be the country's next president, the center-right leader would have to rein in some of his early reform policies which had been shown to garner little support across the political spectrum.

And on news that French employees have won the right to ignore emails out of hours, Webber said it further indication of the lack of support for economic reform within France.