With three days to go before the first round of voting in France's presidential election, the Republican candidate is enjoying an unexpected resurgence and the contest is closer than ever, says Max Liu...
"In recent days, the odds on Macron/Le Pen have drifted to [2.16] in the Final Two market."
When he was French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon was mocked by advisors to the then President Nicolas Sarkozy. Last year, when Fillon announced he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, he was written off as a no-hoper. After proving the doubters wrong by winning the nomination, Fillon's jubilation was short-lived and he quickly became embroiled in "Penelopegate" - a scandal involving allegations that he gave his wife and children taxpayer-funded fake jobs - and colleagues called for him to stand down. He refused and now, with only three days to go before the first round of voting in France's presidential election, Fillon is [4.4] to win the presidency.
Fillon is known for his love of Russia, so could he be the Rasputin of this most unpredictable of French elections? Like the Siberian mystic, who eventually drowned in the Neva River in 1916, Fillon is proving remarkably difficult to kill off. Every time commentators rule him out of the race for the Elysee Palace, Fillon bounces back. His current price is his shortest since Penelopegate and he's even been endorsed by Sarkozy.
All this means the centrist market leader Emmanuel Macron [1.99] is peering nervously over his shoulder while the Front Nacional's Marine Le Pen [5.1] has been pushed into third place in the betting.
Macron fights to keep his revolution alive
These are nervous times for Macron. The En Marche candidate entered the contest promising to revolutionise French politics. He attracted support quickly, building a coalition of French voters who are fed up with Francois Hollande's socialist government yet determined to keep Le Pen out of power. Macron has lead the polls and betting for almost three months. Now he's drifting on Betfair.
The final three days of the campaign will be crucial, with as much as 30% of the French electorate said to still be undecided about which candidate to support. On Monday evening, Macron rallied 20,000 supporters at a Paris stadium and he's now touring the country, meeting voters, while En Marche volunteers go door to door in a bid to secure votes. In Marseille on Wednesday evening, Le Pen addressed her final campaign rally, urging supporters to turn out on Sunday.
In spite of being the favourite to be France's next president, there's no guarantee that Macron will make the second round. Le Pen is [1.92] to win Sunday's first round, with Macron [2.72]. The theory has long been that, even if Le Pen wins the first round, she will be defeated in the second round on May 7, as the vast majority of voters unite behind her opponent.
Macron/Le Pen is the favourite in Betfair's French election Final Two market even though, the latest Cevipof poll of over 11,000 voters shows both candidates losing support: Macron is down two points to 23% while Le Pen falls 2.5 points to 22.5%. In the past three days, the odds on Macron/Le Pen have drifted to [2.16] from [1.92]. Bettors make Fillon/Le Pen [4.5] the next most likely final, while Fillon/Macron trades at [5.9].
Has the Melenchon bubble burst?
At the weekend, veteran left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon emerged as a serious contender for the presidency. Having traded at [980.00], Melenchon's odds narrowed to [7.0]. I interpreted this as a sign that left-wingers, who feel uneasy about Macron's plans to end France's 35 hour working week, might be cooling on the favourite. However, Melenchon has since drifted out to [12.5].
At this stage, Melenchon, like Fillon, cannot be ruled out. Elections in the UK and America have made for tricky betting events in recent years but, with its two round format and four candidates all polling within the margin of error, this could be the most unpredictable election of all. Ahead of Sunday's first round, the race to be France's next president looks too close to call.