French election: what the main candidates stand for?

19th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 19, 2007 (AFP) - Here are the key proposals of the top four candidates in France's presidential election -- Nicolas Sarkozy of the right-wing UMP, the Socialist Segolene Royal, Francois Bayrou of the centrist UDF and Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right National Front.

PARIS, April 19, 2007 (AFP) - Here are the key proposals of the top four candidates in France's presidential election -- Nicolas Sarkozy of the right-wing UMP, the Socialist Segolene Royal, Francois Bayrou of the centrist UDF and Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right National Front.


All the candidates are under pressure to fight unemployment -- currently at a 24-year low but at 8.4 percent among the highest in Europe -- and boost low incomes.

Sarkozy's flagship measure is to scrap payroll tax and social charges on overtime pay, to circumvent the 35-hour working week that was brought in by a Socialist government. People who turn down work could lose their unemployment benefits under his plans.

Royal proposes lifting the minimum monthly wage from 1,250 euros to 1,500 euros (1,900 dollars). She would create 500,000 state-backed "stepping stone" jobs for youths, seniors and long-term unemployed.

Both claim their measures would have a knock-on effect on job creation by boosting consumer spending.

Bayrou's key proposal is to allow companies to create two new jobs without paying social charges.

Le Pen plans to abolish the 35-hour workweek, and bring in a state salary for stay-at-home mothers.


Bayrou's byword is frugality: he wants a constitutional ban on current expenditure budget deficits to tackle France's heavy debt burden, equivalent to 63.9 percent of gross domestic product.

Sarkozy would set a ceiling of 50 percent on personal taxation and hopes in the long term to cut overall tax by four percentage points of GDP. He would replace only one in two retirees from the civil service -- whose five million employees account for almost half the state budget.

Royal would cancel tax breaks for the highest earners and tax companies that pay share dividends instead of investing profits. On state spending, her motto is "every euro spent must be a euro well spent."

Le Pen wants to cut income tax by half to boost growth.


Sarkozy, Royal and Bayrou all rule out a blanket amnesty for France's estimated 200,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants and pledge to boost development aid.

Sarkozy would create a ministry for immigration and national identity to implement skills-based selection for legal migrants, tougher rules of entry for their families and deportation for illegals.

Royal would create a multiple-entry visa for migrant workers and restore the right -- scrapped under Sarkozy -- for illegals to acquire French citizenship after 10 years.

Bayrou plans to bring in integration courses on the French language and values, and crack down on people-trafficking and employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Le Pen's platform calls for welfare to be reserved to French nationals and for migrants to lose the right to bring their families to France. He wants immigration to be completely stopped.


Bayrou and Royal both promise major drives to reimplant public services in the poor, high-immigration suburbs across the country hit by widescale riots in 2005.

Royal, Sarkozy and Bayrou want to create a civic national service for school-leavers, to replace the obligatory military service abolished 10 years ago.

On crime, Royal would reintroduce community policing, introduce military-style boot camps for young offenders and ban prison sentences for minors -- which Sarkozy wants to extend.

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant father, is alone in calling for US-style affirmative action to tackle discrimination against ethnic minorities.


Sarkozy wants a scaled-down mini-treaty, ratified by European parliaments, to replace the draft European constitution rejected by French voters in 2005.

Bayrou and Royal both want to call a new referendum after amending the existing treaty: adding a stronger social component in Royal's case, paring it down to a simpler version in Bayrou's.

Royal says the European Central Bank should broaden its focus to boosting growth and jobs, and both she and Sarkozy say the bank should do more to drive down the euro, currently hovering around record levels against the dollar.

Le Pen wants to renegotiate the major European Union treaties and return to a "Europe of nations."


Both Royal and Bayrou call for the advent of a "Sixth Republic," overhauling government institutions to make them more accountable to the public.

Bayrou would give the president more say in day-to-day affairs, and make parliament more representative, while Royal would have citizen's juries assess the work of elected officials from the president down. Both would end the government's right to push laws through parliament by decree.

Sarkozy wants to keep the current institutions, but make the president more accountable to a stronger parliament, and limit the number of ministers to 15.


All the main candidates have pledged to put the environment at the centre of their presidency.

Royal wants to boost the share of renewable energies and cut back on nuclear power, phase out VAT on eco-friendly industries and stop field trials of genetically-modified organisms.

Sarkozy wants to slash VAT on green products and services and backs the creation of a world environment agency.

Bayrou promises to develop renewable energies and biofuels, encourage lower national energy consumption, and tax polluters.

Both Sarkozy and Bayrou want to maintain nuclear power at its current level.


Royal says she will legalise gay marriage and adoption. Both Bayrou and Sarkozy are against this, supporting the current system of civil unions.

Royal -- whose party wants to legalise medical euthanasia -- has called for a national debate on the question. Both Sarkozy and Bayrou say the current law, which allows doctors to stop treating terminally-ill patients, goes far enough.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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