Once upon a time, political betting was just about the most predictable game on earth. National elections were won by the favourite. Period. Then along came 2016 and, like just about all things political, all of our assumptions and long-established trends became redundant.
With Brexit and Donald Trump fresh in the memory, political bettors seem more willing than ever to take on a short-odds favourite. And in the biggest market since the Trump miracle, that strategy is paying off handsomely.
We’d already seen plenty of drama in the French election last year, when surprising candidates came through the primary process. Long-term favourite Alain Juppe traded down to 1.45 (69%) to become Next President, only to fall at the first hurdle by failing to win his party’s nomination. The man who seemed his principal rival – former President Nicolas Sarkozy – also traded at odds-on before a humiliating primary defeat.
After becoming the UMP candidate Francois Fillon’s odds collapsed from 190.0 to a low of 1.4, equivalent to a 71% chance of winning May’s presidential election. Short-odds backers, however, are already braced to take another big-hit.
With Fillon’s candidacy now mired in a corruption scandal known as Penelopegate, his odds are in freefall. From 1.83 (55%) a week ago, tonight’s latest quote is just 4.0 (25%), with Emmanuel Macron taking over at the head of the market.