Macron vs Le Pen: Meet the next president of France

Macron vs Le Pen: Meet the next president of France
Emmanuel Macron (left) and Marine Le Pen.
PHOTO: AFP

Investors may have started pricing in a victory for centrist Emmanuel Macron in the runoff of the French presidency but the battle against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen is yet to be concluded.

CNBC takes a look at what separates Macron from Le Pen, and why a victory for the former might not be so straight forward.

Who are they?

The far-right candidate has taken on the leadership of the party founded by her father - Jean-Marie Le Pen.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen managed to get through to the second round of the French presidential election as voters have grown concerned with immigration, terrorism and security matters.

This is only the second time in French history when the far-right has managed to reach the second round of the presidential vote.

Jean-Marie Le Pen disputed the presidency against Jacques Chirac in 2002 but lost the runoff with a difference of about 65 percentage points.

Marine Le Pen graduated from Pantheon-Assas University in Paris with a degree in law.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron would be the youngest ever French president if elected.

The 39-year-old politician began his career as an investment banker and though he has served as an economy minister for two years, in the last Socialist government, he has never run for public office until now.

At the start of the campaign, most analysts said Macron was running in the 2017 presidential race as preparation for the election in five years' time.

But the centrist, independent candidate decided to take his chances even without the backing of the Socialist Party.

What do they want to achieve?

"Regarding Mrs Le Pen's programme, the clear primary focus would be on European policy (open negotiation with other member states to bring sovereignty back in member states, including monetary policies), putting an end to the independence of the Bank of France and putting in place economic protectionism," Barclays said in a note on Sunday night.

Le Pen's platform has been based on a closed-door policy to immigration and has called for a tax on companies hiring foreign workers.

On the other hand, the bank added that Macron's plan includes "a further labour law, (aimed at making it less rigid) to be implemented before the Summer… Measures to improve governance (ministers will be assessed, and will be renewed every year; insistence on no criminal record) an audit of public finances; proposals on the future of Europe (euro area budget)."

The former investment banker has promised a Nordic-style economic model for France - making government spending cuts of 60 billion euros ($64.4 billion) while also implementing a stimulus package of 50 billion euros.

What are polls indicating?

A Harris survey taken on Sunday showed Macron winning the runoff on May 7 with 64 per cent of the votes against 36 per cent given to Le Pen.

An Ipsos survey also showed Macron winning the runoff with 62 per cent of the vote against 38 per cent for Le Pen.

However, it is important to take into account that voters from the far left won't necessarily support Macron, after the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who placed fourth in the first round, refused to support him.

"A number of left-wing figures have expressed scepticism towards Macron's policies on election night, providing only a lukewarm endorsement of the former economy minister," Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence, said in a note on Sunday night.

Furthermore, right-wing voters, who opted for the conservative candidate Francois Fillon could choose Le Pen if their main concern is immigration and, another key factor, is the possibility of a third event, such as a terrorist attack or financial scandal, he added.

Fillon started the election as the frontrunner but fell to third place after investigations into the misuse of public funds.

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