Betting on politics: a big year for Europe

Matthew Partridge weighs up the odds on the French and Dutch elections coming up in the next few months.


Marine Le Pen: populist but not popular enough
(Image credit: Christophe Morin / IP3)

The big election this year will be the one in France. Unsettled by allegations of financial impropriety, punters are fleeing from the former prime minister Franois Fillon. As a result, he's lost frontrunner status and his odds have drifted out to 4.1 (22.7%) on Betfair. The centrist Emmanuel Macron has overtaken him, with Betfair now according him a 45% chance of succeeding Hollande as the next president of France. While Macron's price looks tempting, there have been so many twists and turns that he could yet stumble.

What's almost certain is that the far-right MarineLe Pen won't become the next French president.Polls suggest that Macron would get 65% of the vote in a head-to-head against her, while even a wounded Fillon would still beat her in a landslide. If you haven't yet taken my advice to lay her at 5 (equivalent to betting against her at 1.25) then you should do so. If you have, then sit tight.

Another interesting contest is the upcoming Dutch general election in March. The far-right Party For Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, is the clear favourite to win the most seats. However, Holland has a strict proportional representation system, and the other major parties have categorically said that they won't work with him.

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As a result, Wilders needs a majority, or near-majority, of votes to be in with a shout of forming a viable government.Yet the latest polls only put his party between 26% and 33% of the vote, still some way behind the current government. Even the PVV's record poll ratings in December 2016 only had them at 36%.Although short-odds bets can be risky when theygo wrong, we'd suggest taking Ladbrokes' 2/7 (77.8%) on Wilders not becoming prime minister in 2017.Odds of 2/7 mean that you would get £2 profit on a £7 stake for a total of £9.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri