The policies: what the second-round candidates, Le Pen and Macron, stand for

AFP - NICOLAS TUCAT

Here are some of the key policies of the two second-round presidential contenders, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally Party, and centrist incumbent president Emmanuel Macron.

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Emmanuel Macron:

Five years after exploding onto the atrophied French campaign trail in 2017, the political ingénue shook the country’s political landscape to its foundations when he was elected the eighth president of the Fifth Republic with his new-born La République en Marche party. The 44-year-old incumbent is now battling to stay ahead of the game to secure a second term in office.

To date, Macron has played a political long game, only officially announcing his candidacy in a “Letter to the French” on 3 March, giving him less than 40 days to keep the French electorate on side.  

During his short campaign, however, Macron has multiple roles to play while also fighting off his detractors on a national level: French President, European "president", head of the army in times of war, and campaigning candidate.

In order to be as consensual and inclusive as possible, Macron has named his re-election project "Avec Vous", or With You.

Here are some of the key policies that Macron presented on 17 March:

  • Reinvest in a "complete army model", doubling the number of army reservists
  • Create 200 gendarmerie brigades
  • Strengthen agricultural independence
  • Develop nuclear, wind and solar power
  • Raise the legal retirement age to 65
  • €15 billion in tax cuts, €15 billion in savings on the operating costs of local authorities.
  • Abolish the television licence fee
  • Better pay for teachers, with more “freedom” for schools and increased autonomy for universities
  • More support for single-parent families and "women's health”
  • Fight against cyberbullying and bullying in schools
  • Recruit "1,500 cyber patrol people"
  • Hire 8,500 magistrates and judicial staff
  • Reduce the complexity of asylum applications
  • Asylum rejection will result in an "obligation to leave French territory

From the outset, Macron has maintained a significant lead over his nearest rivals, Marine Le Pen and Valérie Pécresse. However, his advantage has been eroded of late as his La République En Marche party walks the centrist tightrope, seeking to appease both the left and right wings of the French electorate.

 

Marine Le Pen:

The heiress of the far-right National Front from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party was rebranded Rassemblement National (National Rally) in 2018 in a bid to shake off the more extremist rhetoric of the past.  

This is Marine Le Pen's third shot at the French presidency.

In 2012, she came third with 17.9% of the vote but was eliminated in the first round. By 2017, however, she qualified for the 2nd round but failed to win against Emmanuel Macron.

Since then, her party has gone through complicated periods and its policy of "de-demonisation" of the Rassemblement National has left its mark.

Although the party has dropped its anti-EU stance, key policies such as striking hard against immigration and increasing security across France remain firmly in place:

  • Propose a referendum on immigration and put an end to the family reunification of migrants
  • Asylum applications only processed abroad
  • Ensure national priority for access to social housing and employment
  • Systematically expel illegal immigrants, delinquents and foreign criminals
  • Make security everywhere and for everyone a priority of the five-year term
  • Reintroduction of minimum prison sentences, eliminate sentence reduction and establish a real life sentence
  • Establish a presumption of legitimate defence for the police
  • Achieve 85,000 prison places by 2027
  • Renationalise the motorways to reduce the price of tolls by 15% and privatise public broadcasting to abolish the licence fee
  • Exempt all young workers up to the age of 30 from income tax so that they stay in France and start their families here
  • Double support for single mothers raising children while strengthening controls to prevent fraud
  • Abolish taxes on direct inheritance for modest and middle class families
  • Ensure France's energy independence
  • Implement a "slaughterhouse plan" to ensure dignified conditions and ban slaughter without stunning
  • Launch a €20 billion emergency support plan for health
  • Put the teaching of French, mathematics and history back at the heart of the curriculum

However, for Marine Le Pen, a woman who already saw herself in the Elysée Palace by 2022, the Rassemblement National must now deal with a more vitriolic opponent within the far right - the former journalist Eric Zemmour - while also wooing the centre-right to her side.