We shall need to know two things about the outcome of the French presidential election rather than one. Who has won, and a further question - what do financial markets think of the result? The French know that there is this second judgement to come and many resent it. It arises because, as Nicolas Sarkozy's Prime Minister, Franois Fillon, said recently, "if the left puts the European treaty in doubt on the day after Franois Hollande is elected, at that point speculation against the euro would take off again, except that this time there would be nobody to prevent it".
Of course Mr Fillon was trying to frighten French voters into supporting the outgoing President, but his warning was not fanciful. For Mr Hollande has said clearly that he would wish to renegotiate the eurozone treaty so that it favours growth. He is likewise reluctant to entrench a so-called "golden rule" that would forbid budget deficits rising above the equivalent of 0.5 per cent of national output.
It is not that Mr Hollande's wishes are unreasonable, but the treaty as it stands is the only means available to the eurozone to compel budget rigour in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the rest. And, in turn, the treaty provides the financial markets with some comfort. But if France, of all countries, were to seek to unpick it, that would substantially reduce confidence in the common currency. Mr Hollande understands all this. In his speech launching his campaign, he referred to his true adversary. "My true adversary does not have a name, a face or a party. He never puts forward his candidacy, but nevertheless he governs." He went on: "My true adversary is the world of finance."
What is this world of finance to which Mr Hollande refers? It is France's creditors. They are numerous, for France has not had a balanced budget since 1974. And these creditors are the banks, insurance companies, pension funds and ordinary savers who own French government debt. Many of them are French institutions and French citizens; others sit in London or in New York or in smaller financial markets. You can call them bondholders. For the moment, they are more powerful than any individual national government, perhaps even stronger than the 17 member of the eurozone combined.
In the French mind, this enemy has many aliases. It could equally well be called the "Anglo-Saxons", the City and Wall Street. The hard left candidate, Jean-Luc Mlenchon, often takes up this theme. In the latest polls, he has 14.5 per cent of the intentions to vote and lies third after Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande who are tied on 27 per cent. The other day, this cultivated man, speaking at …