A new French president could disrupt global markets

France's Socialist Party (PS) candidate for the 2012 French presidential election Francois Hollande waves on stage during a campaign meeting in the French southwestern city of Bordeaux on April 19, 2012. Hollande has been very critical of France's austerity measures.

Jeremy Hobson: On Sunday, France will hold the first round of its presidential election. Polls indicate the incumbent conservative, Nicolas Sarkozy, is in a close race with socialist Francois Hollande.

And there are concerns that if Sarkozy loses the election, the economic ripples could spread across Europe and around the world. Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us now live from our European Desk in London with more. Good morning.

Stephen Beard: Hello Jeremy.

Hobson: We've had leadership changes in Greece and in Italy during the debt crisis, and they didn't seem to have a huge effect on global markets. Why is France a different story?

Beard: This is potentially more destabilizing because remember the case of Italy and Greece -- there wasn't an election, and technocrats just took over. And crucially, they were ready to do what the Germans and the European Commission and the European Central Bank wanted. Now, in the case of France, there's an election, and the frontrunner is a Socialist politician who's been very critical of the austerity drive, the budget-cutting pushed by the Germans. He says growth must come first. So if he wins, he could open up a bit of a rift between these two key -- the most important -- countries in the eurozone: France and Germany.

Hobson: But if you look at the market reaction so far in the stock markets and the bond markets, it doesn't appear like the global markets are too concerned about any potential ramifications of this.

Beard: Well stay tuned. We've had these long periods of calm before we suddenly erupted in financial frenzy. But some analysts say yes, the markets are right to be relaxed because Francois Hollande can say one thing on the campaign trail -- whether he can deliver it in office is a different matter.

Dominic Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations in Paris says when it comes to the eurozone, a French president has to toe the line.

Dominic Moisi: When it comes to economic financial monetary matters, there is a junior partner, that is France. And there is a senior partner, that is Germany.

Hobson: So Stephen, any idea who's going to win this election in France?

Beard: Dominic Moisi says it will be a miracle if Sarkozy is re-elected.

Hobson: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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