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By Michel Rose
PARIS Feb 7 Far-right leader Marine Le Pen will
never be elected in France and financial markets are bound to
lose a lot of money if they bet against French assets, Finance
Minister Michel Sapin said on Tuesday.
Uncertainty about the outcome of the election, taking place
in two rounds on April 23 and May 7, has this week driven the
premium that investors demand for holding French over German
government debt to its highest for almost four years.
Sapin, a French political veteran, said some investors
didn't seem to understand the French electoral system, which he
said would guarantee anyone facing Le Pen in May's runoff an
easy victory with about 60 to 70 percent of votes.
"That's the reason why Marine Le Pen will never be elected
in France," Sapin told Reuters and a group of European
Even though Le Pen looks certain to reach the head-to-head
second round, all opinion polls show she will be soundly beaten
by whoever she faces, with independent centrist Emmanuel Macron
currently in pole position to defeat her.
Sapin said observers were wrong to draw parallels with
Britain's decision to leave the European Union and Donald
Trump's election in the United States, which had both caught
markets off guard.
"Saying: 'since we were wrong once, wrong twice, we're wrong
on Le Pen' is to not understand anything about France," Sapin
Referring to the rise in French borrowing costs in recent
weeks on uncertainty regarding the French election, Sapin said:
"Those who, in good faith or by speculation, bet against
France because they think Le Pen can win are not only wrong, but
I'll be frank: they will lose a lot of money."
As finance minister in a previous Socialist government in
the 1990s, Sapin had to fight market turmoil as investors tested
France and Germany's resolve to keep the French franc in what
was then the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).
"I was there in 1992 and in 93 (and) I made international
investors who betted against the single currency lose money," he
"I don't know where the government bonds yield spread will
be by April, maybe higher, but you'll have a very, very quick
drop after the presidentials," he said.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Balmforth)