The French will decide on Sunday whether to re-elect current “pro-business” president Emmanuel Macron or break a decades-long string of basic political consensus and elect far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Here’s what the French and the world can expect from them on important issues:
Marine Le Pen on campaign, on April 22, 2022 — Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP
Le Pen: The “heiress” of the French far-right transformed the former National Front, changing the party from free-market and downsizing of her father’s state into a protectionist, pro-spending acronym.
She wants to implement a “buy French” policy for public spending, lower the minimum retirement age to 60 for those who started working before age 20, eliminate income tax for those under 30 and reduce value-added tax ( VAT) of energy from 20% to 5.5%.
It would also spend €2 billion over 5 years increasing hospital staff salaries and recruiting another 10,000 of them. Teacher salaries would increase by 15% in 5 years.
Gilles Ivaldi, a political scientist at Sciences-Po, says Le Pen’s party’s economic program is more to the left than for decades.
“Free trade kills the planet,” she said during a TV debate with Macron.
macron: The current French leader plans to double down on the reforms he implemented during his first term, and the main objective of his manifesto is to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65.
“I don’t want to increase our taxes, I don’t want to increase our debt, I even want to start paying it in the next five years,” Macron said during the debate. “Then I want us to work harder.”
Macron also promises to make some social benefits conditional on 15 to 20 hours of training, similar to policies in countries like the United States or the United Kingdom. Unemployment benefits would be linked to the strength of the economy.
In an attempt to stay true to his “neither left nor right” motto, he also promised to make benefits automatic for those who qualify, rather than requiring prospective beneficiaries to apply for them.
Le Pen: She insists she has no “secret agenda” for France — a founding member of the EU — to leave the 27-nation bloc, its single currency or the Schengen zone, which does not require passports to be shown at borders.
Opponents believe his policies would, at best, create new tensions within the bloc – whose unity has been tested in recent years by a migration crisis, the UK’s departure and the Covid-19 pandemic – and, at worst, hypotheses, would lead to a “Frexit”.
Le Pen said he would cut French contributions to the EU budget, renegotiate the Schengen agreement and reintroduce checks on goods entering the country from other EU countries.
She would seek to restore the primacy of French law over EU law – the fundamental basis of European integration – and wants the bloc to become a looser association of cooperating sovereign countries.
“This amounts to a complete hollowing out of what the EU has been trying to achieve all these years,” said a senior diplomat. “But it’s not presented that way.”
Emmanuel Macron on campaign, April 5, 2022 — Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters
macron: The ardent Europhile would continue his drive to develop what he calls Europe’s “strategic autonomy” in defence, technology, agriculture and energy and reduce the bloc’s dependence on other powers.
Macron is also expected to push for more regulation from US tech giants and said he wanted to create a “European metaverse” to compete with Facebook.
The relationship between Paris and Berlin would continue to be instrumental in shaping Europe’s future. “I believe in the Franco-German couple,” Macron said.
Le Pen: The candidate wants to remove France from the integrated command of NATO’s transatlantic military alliance, in a challenge to the West’s post-Cold War security architecture.
Opponents accuse her of being too close to Moscow. your party received a bank loan from a Russian bank in 2014 and she was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin shortly before the 2017 presidential election.
Macron accused Le Pen of being on Putin’s payroll, telling her: “You talk about your banker when you talk about Russia.”
She condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but says Moscow can be an ally again post-war. She said she would pursue a foreign policy at the same distance from Washington and Moscow.
macron: While Macron angered the entire transatlantic alliance, particularly in Eastern Europe and Germany, when he said in 2019 that NATO was “brain dead”, he said the Russian invasion of Ukraine “brought it back to life”.
He would, however, seek to make Europeans less dependent on the US military for security.
Macron has been cautious about whether he would seek to cooperate with the new US-UK-Australia security alliance against China or try to persuade the EU to pursue its own independent policy towards Beijing.
Polls give President Macron the lead in Sunday’s election
Le Pen: the far-right candidate ignores the issue of the relationship with Latin America. Its foreign policy is limited to promoting immigration control and national sovereignty vis-à-vis the rest of the world, including the United States.
Macron: relations between France and Brazil – shaken after the disagreements between Macron and President Jair Bolsonaro – are unlikely to revive anytime soon. His first term was marked by a distant relationship with Latin America, compared to his predecessors. With the exception of a trip to Buenos Aires, which he made in the context of a G20 meeting, and not on an official visit, Macron did not go to Latin America and did not develop specific projects with the region (see more details in a specific report by RFI) .