French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's roadmap to the Élysée Palace in May must first begin by inspiring a sense of urgency among politically apathetic voters, analysts at Nomura said in a note.
Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration and anti-European Union National Front, is currently neck-and-neck with centrist Emmanuel Macron for the first round vote on April 23, according to an Elabe poll. Macron is expected to go on to win the second and final round run-off vote on May 7, the same poll forecast.
"Mathematically, it remains feasible for Marine Le Pen to win. However, to achieve that, she needs to convince all the voters who, in the second round, have said they will abstain, or vote blank or who are still undecided to vote for her," Charles St-Arnaud, senior strategist and economist at Nomura Securities International, said in a note.
The phenomenon of 'blank' votes is expected to increase in France throughout the 2017 two-stage contest, Nomura predicted, as citizens frustrated with the political establishment opt to submit a nameless vote to the ballot box rather than support a candidate.
An Odoxa poll published Friday estimated that as many as 43 percent of the French electorate have yet to decide who to vote for in the general election.
Despite the apparent frustration with the political elite, Nomura underlined the mathematical possibility that French citizens could defy expectations in the voting booth, in a way not dissimilar to U.S. President Donald Trump's election victory and the Brexit vote in the U.K.
"Many investors are approaching the French elections with the memory of the Brexit vote and the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the U.S., drawing specifically on Trump's victory. However, major differences make the US election a bad point of reference," St-Arnaud said.
Le Pen has repeatedly praised Trump for his 2016 election success yet Nomura advised caution to the National Front leader in taking too much inspiration from the former New York Businessman's success.
In France, 50 percent of the votes are required in the second run-off round to be elected President whereas Trump was able to assume the White House with the most Electoral College votes.
Nomura concluded for Le Pen to become president, she must drastically reshape public opinion of her party and reach out to the undecided voters for any hope of victory.