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France's Le Pen looks to win farmers vote

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 01:42

The far-right's Marine Le Pen is the first of the major French presidential candidates to visit the annual Paris agricultural show, hoping to convince farmers to back her brand of protectionism and a ''French Agricultural Policy'' in elections in the spring. As Sonia Legg reports, polls show increasing numbers of farmers are tempted by Le Pen.

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The animals might not have a vote but politicians in France know not to ignore the agriculture sector. Traditionally farmers are conservative but this time - with the industry in crisis - many are supporting the far-right candidate. (SOUNDBITE) (French) DAIRY FARMER, JORIS PERRIN, SAYING: "She knows farmers. She wants to help farmers, she listens to them. More than the others." Polls suggest Le Pen will win the first round of voting in April and lose in the second when she's up against a single candidate. But the race is tight - and few investors are prepared to rule out a shock. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, CCLA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: "If we learnt anything from the politics of 2016 it is that we should expect the unexpected. People want change and what form that change takes is unclear." The National Front is even making inroads in some Socialist areas. Dairy farmers in particular have switched to the right as milk prices fall, EU quotas end and Russian sanctions bite. And they seem to be overlooking one key issue. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, CCLA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: "Madam Le Pen's policies towards French farmers may not deliver precisely what they want. She has indicated that she is relatively hostile to the EU agenda and of course it is the EU agenda that has done so well for the French farming community." French bonds have felt the impact of the political risks. And the country's stocks have trailed the rest of the euro zone. But France's economic prospects - after years of weakness - are looking up. Business and consumer confidence is surging - so too job creation. Big firms also expect earnings to rise. Ironically, it's partly down to President Hollande's business-friendly policies. The test now is maintaining that momentum as he bows out.

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France's Le Pen looks to win farmers vote

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 01:42