French elections to have spill over effect on Italian politics

Indo Asian News Service

Rome, April 22 (IANS) The presidential poll in France on Sunday will have a spill over effect on Italian politics as the country is also heading to general elections within months, said analysts.

Italian right-wing political groups could get a boost if France's euroskeptic National Front leader Marine Le Pen has a strong showing in the first round.

If moderate candidate Emmanuel Macron exceeds expectations, it could be a boon for former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is seeking a political comeback, Xinhua news agency reported.

The vote in France is unlikely to be decisive and a second-round runoff is almost inevitable. Besides, the top four candidates -- conservative Francois Fillon, far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, Le Pen and Macron -- are so close that it's almost impossible to predict the outcome, pollsters say.

Le Pen's success in the first round could help increase support in Italy for the anti-establishment, anti-euro Five-Star Movement led by comedian and activist Beppe Grillo, and especially for the Northern League, a separatist group that would like to revamp the ties between Italy and the European Union, an expert has said.

"If Le Pen and the National Front come in first on Sunday, it could energise the Northern League and encourage them to try to play a bigger role going forward," Alessandro Campi, a professor at the University of Perugia and the director of Italy's Institute of Politics, told Xinhua.

"On the other hand, if Macron exceeds expectations, it could be a boost for Renzi."

Renzi, who is seeking a comeback in the upcoming elections, resigned in December after losing a referendum on proposed constitutional reforms.

According to Christian Blasberg, a contemporary history professor at Rome's LUISS University, a strong performance for Le Pen and her National Front could also send a strong signal in other ways.

"It is not really clear whether the anti-establishment wave that resulted in the Brexit vote (in Britain) and the victory of Donald Trump in the US is running out of speed or not," Blasberg told Xinhua.

"It seems like it may have paused in Europe now. But if Le Pen does well, it could show that this trend is still strong."

Gian Franco Gallo, a political analyst, said groups in Italy calling for the country to reject the euro could see their ranks grow if Le Pen and the National Front finish strong.

"It is likely that if the National Front does well, its high-profile criticisms of the euro currency will legitimise that view in the eyes of some," Gallo said.

Few analysts predict Le Pen will be elected President. Even if she makes it to the second round scheduled for May 7, the most likely scenario will be that backers of the defeated candidates will unite behind her rival.

That is what happened 15 years ago when Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lost to Jacques Chirac by a big margin in the second round.

--IANS

py/bg