Billions of people who don’t know and don’t care that the French are having a presidential election this spring could get the shock of their lives. A victory for Francois Hollande, challenging Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency could bring the euro down and plunge the world back into recession.And Hollande is not only ahead; the latest polls show his lead is increasing. Hugely: he now leads Sarkozy 58-42 when voters are asked how they would vote in a two-man second round. (French presidential elections go in two rounds; if nobody gets a majority in round one, the two candidates with the most votes have a runoff.)That’s a big lead, and at some point investors are likely to notice.Under the Charles de Gaulle inspired constitution of the French Fifth Republic, the President of France has much more power than the US president and is the most powerful head of state in the EU. (In most of Europe, relatively powerless constitutional monarchs or presidents serve as heads of state while prime ministers and chancellors control the workings of government from a base in the legislature. France is the exception.)Nicolas Sarkozy is up for re-election (French presidents can serve up to two five year terms, down from seven years in de Gaulle’s day) this spring; his leading opponent is Francois Hollande. Nobody knows what Hollande will do once in office, but in the campaign he has been attacking Sarkozy’s policy of working closely with Germany to resolve the European debt crisis.He wants France to head in pretty much the opposite direction. Hollande wants a new basic treaty to govern Franco-German relations and has attacked the Merkel-Sarkozy agreements on the euro. He is a far more anti-bank, anti-finance candidate than Sarkozy and wants a much more expansionary fiscal policy for the EU as a whole.Hollande is probably lying about some of this; the US isn’t the only country where politicians will say anything to get the job and then do whatever it takes to keep it even if that means breaking their campaign pledges. But his election will throw a monkey wrench into Europe’s plans to cope with the euro crisis at a time when the world still wonders whether the Europeans can get their act together.Chancellor Merkel’s decision to campaign for her colleague Sarkozy only raises the ante. Somewhat shockingly, she is not only campaigning for Sarko, she snubbed Hollande by refusing to meet with him before the election.Merkel’s stance makes sense from an EU-federalist point of view. As the European countries grow closer, political parties need to transcend national frontiers. In the European parliament, parties from different countries form continental coalitions in proto-superparties at the European level and logically the unification of Europe requires this. That a German conservative would support a French conservative against a French socialist is only logical — just as in the US a Republican governor from one state would support a political colleague against the Democratic incumbent governor of a neighboring state.But since French nationalism and fear of growing German dominance in the EU is an important force in the political scene this year, the plan may backfire. Hollande is charging that in effect Sarkozy is Merkel’s poodle; the result could be the election of a French president on an anti-Teutonic, anti-austerity wave.As the election gets closer, if Hollande continues to lead in the polls and continues to talk about changing directions for France, the uncertainty will grow — and in jittery financial markets, uncertainty is not a good thing. Sarkozy will probably try to exploit this, warning that a vote for Hollande is a vote for financial crisis and depression, but all told this means more risk in a situation where calm, clarity and stability are what the world needs.The French should vote for whomever they please; Via Meadia has a hard enough time finding candidates to endorse in US elections, much less telling the whole world how to vote. But the appearance of discord between the current leader of Germany and the future leader of France is not the best possible sign at a time when the world wants good news from the EU.