With Marine le Pen transforming her National Front (NF) into a party for the populist era, analysts have been carefully assessing how French elections in May could deal a "severe blow" to the European Union (EU).
"It's difficult to imagine how the European Union could function should such a Euroskeptic (as Le Pen) be at the helm of one if its major economies … It would likely precede its fracturing," Michael Hessel, political economist at Absolute Strategy Research, told CNBC via telephone.
He said that that low voter turnout would be Le Pen's best hope of securing an unlikely election victory. He projected Le Pen had up to a one-in-five chance of becoming French president in May.
Le Pen has promised to
A survey by Kantar Sofres released on Sunday placed Fillon on 21 percent of the vote, just behind social-democrat Emmanuel Macron on 22 percent. Meanwhile, Le Pen remains the leading candidate on 25 percent. The NF leader is well positioned to secure enough votes to reach the second round, however, the same survey expects her to lose out to either Fillon or Emmanuel Macron, France's former economy minister, in that next round by at least 20 percentage points.
Le Pen may yet harbor some hope of election success though. As was the case with President Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the U.K., French citizens could defy expectations in the voting booth and polls may not truly reflect sentiment in the country.
Political leaders across Europe have voiced their concern that a Le Pen victory would cast significant doubt over the future of the EU. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told local radio station Onda Cero on Thursday that he did want to think about the possibility of a Le Pen presidency.
"It would simply mean the destruction of Europe," Rajoy concluded.
"After Brexit last year, if enemies of Europe manage again in the Netherlands or in France to get results then we face the threat that the largest civilization project of the 20th century, namely the European Union, could fall apart," Sigmar Gabriel, German economy minister told parliament on Thursday.