×

Record abstention figures could boost Le Pen’s chances in the upcoming election

French candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen during a campaign rally on March 18, 2017 in Metz, France.
Jean Christophe Verhaegen | AFP | Getty Images
French candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen during a campaign rally on March 18, 2017 in Metz, France.

With only a few weeks to go until the French election, polls are showing that far-right leader Marine Le Pen is unlikely to become the next president. However, expectations of a lower turnout could raise her chances of moving into the Élysée Palace

Polls are indicating that the 2017 French election could set a record in abstention figures as voters become fed up with low economic growth and with the scandals involving the political elite. In 2002, a record of 28 percent of the voters stayed at home but this figure could grow to 38 percent this year, a poll published by Paris Match showed last week.

"That's the main risk for (the 2017 election)," Claus Vistesen, chief euro zone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told CNBC over the phone.

"We can't be sure the data is correct, mainly in a two-round election," Vistesen added. But "there's no doubt a lower turnout would support Le Pen."

According to an Opinionway poll released Monday, Marine Le Pen is set to win the first round of the French election with about 25 percent of support. But in a second round, expectations are that she will lose the presidential seat to either the independent runner Emmanuel Macron or the conservative candidate Francois Fillon with about 40 percent of votes.

However, events like a collapse of the EU's immigration deal with Turkey – which has prevented large influxes of migrants into the EU, would certainly lead some voters to opt for Le Pen's anti-immigration rhetoric, and narrow the gap in the second round.

Vistesen told CNBC that in the second round, Le Pen is likely to intensify her anti-immigration rhetoric and put aside a referendum to leave the euro zone. "It's much easier to go for security," he said, adding that her political opponent Macron has taken a soft stance on this issue.

But not everyone believes that the Front National has the political infrastructure to lead the second-largest economy in the euro area.

"The National Front is not ready, I think, to take power," Jean-Yves Camus, political analyst at the international relations institute IRIS, told CNBC on Monday.

He said the far-right party doesn't have many experts, elected officials nor any coalition experience, and "lacks the capability to efficiently run the government."

"The National Front is trying to show that globalization is bad, that the free market economy is bad, that they don't want to go further with economic freedom and free trade," he told CNBC.

Camus noticed, however, that its speech has convinced a growing number of people leading to "a huge change" in the kind of voters that traditionally supported Front National. This is now made of working class voters but
"surprisingly" also gathers about 30 percent of support among those aged between 18 and 24, he said.

The first round of the French election is on April 23rd.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.