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FRANCE AT CROSSROADS: MACRON V LE PEN

What is the vision of the two combatants seeking the presidency of France? We do not need to ask what their vision of Africa is, we already know that. No French president, representative, citizen or entity has ever deviated from the principle that Franceafrique is not a uniquely French possession, to be exploited, brutally in most cases, with all its citizens and leaders made to, willingly or not, to serve the interest and only the interest of France. So since we know that these two individuals have a very similar position as concerns Africa no matter what they utter while campaigning, what sets them apart then?

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, 23 Apr 17 combo image

National renewal is what both the rival French presidential candidates are promising, but they offer very different paths to get there.

Liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron – winner of the first round – and nationalist Marine Le Pen are already revolutionising French politics.

They have delivered a big blow to the long-dominant Socialists and conservative Republicans.

Mr Macron leads a new movement called En Marche (On the Move), while Ms Le Pen is backed by the National Front (FN). They disagree on many issues, especially Europe and immigration.

The decisive second round is on 7 May – and polls suggest Mr Macron is ahead. So what are the main differences between the Macron and Le Pen visions?


Economy

Macron:

  • Make budget savings of €60bn (£51bn; $65bn), so that France sticks to the EU deficit limit of 3% of GDP (total output)
  • Public investments worth €50bn spread over five years for environmental measures, apprenticeships, digital innovation and public infrastructure
  • Lower corporation tax to 25% from 33.3%

Le Pen:

  • Introduce “intelligent protectionism”, including favouring French firms in public sector contracts
  • Abandon the euro and bring back the franc
  • Free up loans for small businesses by lowering interest charges

Workers sewing at French clothing firm Petit Bateau, in TroyesImage copyright AFP
Image caption The candidates differ over France’s 35-hour working week

Labour market

Macron:

  • Boost people’s purchasing power by cutting their social security contributions, worth about €500 annually for someone on a monthly net salary of €2,200
  • Allow firms flexibility on the 35-hour working week – but extra hours worked will be free of social security deductions
  • Maintain retirement age at 62, but unify retirement rules to reduce complexity

Le Pen:

  • Impose a new tax on the hiring of foreign workers so that French citizens get priority
  • Keep the 35-hour working week
  • Lower the retirement age to 60

Europe

Macron:

  • Reform the EU by establishing a separate eurozone budget, eurozone finance minister and eurozone parliament (MEPs from the 19 countries that use the euro)
  • In Brexit negotiations, insist that EU Single Market rules apply fully to all trade partners
  • Promote free trade deals like Ceta – the EU-Canada deal

Le Pen:

  • Repatriate powers to France and hold an in/out referendum on France’s EU membership
  • Restore full border controls, leave the Schengen open borders system, appoint 6,000 new customs officers
  • Scrap the EU posted workers directive, to block competition from foreign workers in France

Girls at a Muslim school in Aubervilliers, on Paris outskirts - Sept 2013 file pic

Immigration

Macron:

  • Create a 5,000-strong force of EU border guards
  • Make fluency in French the main qualification for obtaining French nationality
  • Give all religious leaders comprehensive training in France’s secular values

Le Pen:

  • Suspend all legal immigration, restore border controls and then limit immigration to 10,000 annually
  • Automatically deport all foreign criminals and foreigners with Islamist links
  • Grant asylum only to people who apply for it at French diplomatic missions abroad

French soldiers at ceremony, 25 Apr 17Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Macron wants an EU defence fund, Ms Le Pen wants to recruit more soldiers

Defence and security

Macron:

  • Recruit 10,000 new police officers
  • Expand prisons to house an extra 15,000
  • Create an EU defence fund to promote joint military projects and set up a permanent European headquarters

Le Pen:

  • Recruit 15,000 new police officers
  • Create 40,000 extra prison places
  • Boost armed forces by 50,000 personnel to return to 2007 levels and take France out of Nato’s command structure

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