Candidates primed for action in first 100 days

4th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 4, 2007 (AFP) - France's new president is preparing to roll out a raft of measures soon after the election on Sunday, moving quickly during the first 100 days in office to make good on promises of sweeping reform.

PARIS, May 4, 2007 (AFP) - France's new president is preparing to roll out a raft of measures soon after the election on Sunday, moving quickly during the first 100 days in office to make good on promises of sweeping reform.

Both the right-wing front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal have spelled out their priorities for their early days in office if elected on Sunday at the helm of the euro-zone's second largest economy after Germany.

"They must move quickly to ensure that voters have no regrets," said Paul Bacot, political science professor at Lyon University.

"For Sarkozy who has presented himself as the candidate of the clean break, this means that a clean break can't happen little by little, over five years," said Bacot, adding that Royal has also pledged to swiftly bring change.

The first order of business for the president-elect who takes office around May 17 will be the appointment of a caretaker government ahead of legislative elections in June.

Sarkozy and Royal are confident they can secure a majority for their party in the National Assembly and win a free hand to push through reforms following a campaign that has been dominated by calls for change.

Taking time from the legislative campaign, the new leader will make a first foray on the international stage at the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany from June 6 to 8 and at an EU summit in Brussels on June 21 and 22.

On the domestic front, Sarkozy has promised to bring unemployment, currently one of the highest in Europe at 8.3 percent, down to below five percent, and stimulate growth through a series of tax cuts that he argues will fuel consumer spending.

Sarkozy plans to call an extraordinary session of parliament in July to adopt a raft of measures to "restore the value of hard work" -- a central theme of his presidential campaign.

He wants to exempt overtime worked above 35 hours from tax and social charges and bring down taxes by four percentage points -- although economists are skeptical that this can be done without putting the state in dire financial straits.

The first test of a Sarkozy presidency could well come with a bill to be submitted this summer to force public-sector monopolies, notably in transport, to ensure minimum services during strikes.

The proposal has angered unions who see it as a unilateral move and sparked warnings of mass protests.

"If he resorts to these methods," warned the secretary general of the CFDT union Francois Chereque, "there will be protest movements" in September.

In the suburbs where the former interior minister is considered persona non grata, Sarkozy has promised to launch this summer a "Marshall Plan" to provide training for unskilled youth and prevent them from turning to crime.

If she succeeds in becoming France's first woman president, Royal will zero in on youth unemployment as a key battleground, creating some 500,000 jobs for the young French whose jobless rate is more than twice the national average.

Her first piece of legislation submitted to parliament will be a bill on violence against women that will improve assistance for victims and raise public awareness.

Some two million women in France are victims of spousal abuse and 400 die at the hands of their husbands or partners per year, according to the organisation SOS Women's Shelter (SOS Femmes Accueil).

Royal wants to convene an employer-union conference in June that will tackle a broad gamut of economic issues, from wages to pension reform and also, the 35-hour workweek.

The 53-year-old former environment minister has also pledged to reform the institutions of government to bring them closer to the people, reducing the powers of the presidency and giving parliament greater oversight.

A referendum on the institutions of a new Sixth Republic would take place in September under President Royal.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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