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UBS Chairman Weber says second round of French polls key

  • Weber of UBS says second round of French polls should see centrist win
  • Expects Le Pen to be in runoff vote on May 7

Market risk over the elections in France will come to the fore in a widely expected second round of voting as opinion polls to date suggest a centrist candidate will go against far-right National Front chief Marine Le Pen and likely win.

That's the view of Axel Weber, chairman of the Swiss bank UBS, who told CNBC in an interview at the weekend held in the U.S. that the first round of voting among five top candidates on April 23 is important, but not the real show because none of them will likely cross the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright.

Axel Weber
Source: World Economic Forum
Axel Weber

"The real issue in France is the second election," Weber said, referring to an expected May 7 runoff between the top two vote-winners. He said that should see Emmanuel Macron, 39, a centrist ex-banker, or "one of the other" in a likely reference to conservative Francois Fillon - as the candidate to challenge Le Pen for support in the political center of the country.

The former European Central Bank governing council member and president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, added that at stake in the election for markets and investors is whether the center will hold as it did in the Netherlands and as he expects it will in upcoming German elections in September.

"I think there's a good chance in France it will hold," he said, adding though that populist policies will be a challenge for Europe over the long-term regardless.