May 3, 2017 / 11:22 AM / 6 months ago

French savers are a good bulwark against Le Pen

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - French savers are a good bulwark against Marine Le Pen winning the presidential election on Sunday. The far-right presidential hopeful has a strong core of supporters who back her eurosceptic manifesto. And her spendthrift economic policies may appeal to voters whose jobs and personal finances are precarious. But a vow to ditch the single currency is likely to repel undecided voters in a country with the third-highest savings rate in the euro zone.

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for the National Front in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, reacts after results in the second-round the regional elections are announced in Henin-Beaumont, France, December 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Gallic households stash away more than 14 percent of their gross disposable income, according to the European Union statistics office. Only Germans and Slovenians are bigger savers in the euro zone, while outside the bloc, the British save less than half that amount. Thriftiness brings with it a wariness of anything that might erode the value of such nest eggs, such as Le Pen’s plan to reintroduce a national currency alongside the euro.

Critics say that the currency would slump in value, money would flow out of the Republic, and financial and economic chaos would ensue. With her presidential rival, the centrist Emmanuel Macron, around 20 percentage points ahead of her in the polls, Le Pen is trying to reassure voters this won’t be the case. She said on April 29 that there was no rush to dump the euro and that other policy changes might take precedence. And in a Reuters interview published on Tuesday, she said capital controls could be imposed if there were a run on banks while she was negotiating an EU exit, though they were unlikely to be needed.

Such efforts to appeal to a wider range of voters are unlikely to succeed. After all, Le Pen’s anti-euro creed is far from the only reason that voters are expected to pick Macron as president. But in a nation of savers, this is a policy that the National Front will have to dilute if the party wants to improve its score in the future.

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