An influential think tank is warning half of the electorate could catapult Marine Le Pen‘s party into power in the parliamentary elections in June even if she is defeated in her bid to become France‘s first female president.
Voters are expected to turn out en masse to the presidential elections taking place in April and May with Mrs Le Pen expected to triumph through to the second round of voting but lose to En Marche! candidate Emmanuel Macron.
While some claim it is likely to be impossible for any one candidate to win the first round of the vote on April 23, 11 presidential candidates are vying for an absolute majority which would allow them to become president in the first ballot.
Should no one prevail with an absolute majority, the two main vote winning candidates will go head to head in the second round of voting on May 7.
A polarised population appears to be rejecting the traditional socialist and republican parties which have been hit by a series of scandals.
That has led to the rise of centrist candidate 39-year-old Mr Macron, a former civil servant and former socialist banker who has never been elected into public office, becoming a surprise option with his newly developed political movement.
Meanwhile far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an anti-establishment figure and apparent populist who rejects the European Union, is also gaining ground.
Now Joel Gombin, a director of l’Observatoire des Radicalités Politiques, says while leftist voters may mobilise to beat Mrs Le Pen in a second round, a “political realignment” could also be on the cards in the overarching French political establishment.
The National Assembly elections, which take place in June, could likely see Front National make huge gains.
Mr Gombin said: “There are moments in history when voter behaviour shifts dramatically and the balance of political forces is transformed.
“This happened in 1981 and 1984, when the FN first emerged as a significant electoral player.
“In the event of a realignment that places globalisation and France’s relations with the rest of the world at the centre of political debate, it is conceivable that half of the electorate could find itself drawn towards the FN.
“But even in such a case it remains probable that Ms Le Pen would lose on May 7.
“But what happens next would be more interesting.
“The centre-right Republicans, having lost their raison d’etre (winning elections) as a party they would likely lose a significant portion of their elected official, activists and voters to the FN, and another chunk to Mr Macron and his coalition.
“In such a configuration, the FN – or whatever the FN becomes – would have election-winning potential.
“But then we would be living in a different political world.”
And while some are warning abstention by those who support no candidates could also be a major factor in the outcome of the presidential race, there’s change in the offing.
The National Assembly elections which will vote in 577 members for five-year terms in single seat-constituencies will take place on 11 and 18 June 2017.