TASS-FACTBOX. The French presidential runoff scheduled for May 7, 2017 will pit leader of the centrist "En Marche!" movement Emmanuel Macron (24.01% of the votes gained in the first round) against leader of the far-right National Front Marine Le Pen (21.3% of the votes).
The polls conducted by the French Public Opinion Institute on May 4, 2017 suggest that Emmanuel Macron has the biggest chances to win the presidential runoff as 61% of the respondents are ready to vote for him.
The election victory will make 39-year-old Macron the youngest president of France while 48-year-old Le Pen will be the first woman in this post, if she wins.
The candidates from the country’s two key parties failed to get into the presidential runoff for the first time in the history of the French Fifth Republic (since 1958): Francois Fillon from the Republican Party gained 20.01% of the votes while Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon won the support of only 6.35% of the electors.
The TASS-FACTBOX editorial board has prepared a dossier on the electoral programs of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
Macron has prioritized measures to cut unemployment to 7.7% by 2022 (from about 11% at present, which is the sixth highest unemployment rate in the eurozone) and reduce the budget deficit to 3% of GDP (it stood at 3.3% in France in 2016 compared to the eurozone’s average of 1.5%).
Macron has also pledged to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP (1.79% in 2016 compared with the EU’s average of 1.4%) and slash corporation tax to 25% from 33.3%.
Macron believes that minimum pensions and disability benefits should be raised by 100 euros (they equaled 629 euros and 282 euros a month, respectively, in 2016). He is also set to keep the retirement age unchanged at 62.5 years for men and women.
The centrist candidate has stated that in case of his victory the state will invest 50 billion euros in some strategic projects, such as the development of renewable energy sources, agriculture modernization, housing stock repair and new housing construction, support for innovations in medicine, as well as the projects to expand users’ access to the Internet.
Macron also plans to cut the number of lawmakers and senators by a third (currently, 925) and slash 120,000 out of about 5 million public sector jobs. The centrist candidate intends to fight for the transparency of political life and has pledged to ban lawmakers from providing consulting services, hiring relatives and holding the same state post for more than three consecutive times.
His electoral platform also includes pledges to lift a ban on wearing Muslim head coverings (headscarves) at higher educational institutions, boost the number of elementary school teachers (by 4,000-5,000 from over 300,000 teachers at present) and the personnel strength of police and the gendarmerie (by 10,000 from the current 92,000-strong force).
The centrist candidate has vowed to resolutely "persecute any groups, which use religion as the ground for refusing to obey French legislation," and also to actively support gender equality.
In his election campaign, Macron advocated united Europe and France’s EU membership but after he got into the runoff he stated that the European Union must reform or face ‘Frexit’ (France’s exit from the EU).
Macron believes that cooperation with Russia should be based on the joint struggle against Islamists and the settlement of the Syrian conflict. He holds the opinion that the anti-Russian sanctions must be lifted as Russia fulfils the Minsk peace accords.
If elected as the president of France, Marine Le Pen intends to return the franc as the national currency that will circulate along with the euro.
She advocates a 10% tax on hiring foreign workers and also a 3% tax on imports.
The National Front’s candidate wants to increase defense spending to 3% of GDP.
Le Pen has promised a 200-euro monthly pay for citizens with incomes below 1,500 euros. She has proposed cancelling the 2016 labor law allowing employers in some cases to increase the worktime to 60 hours a week (compared with the official 35-hour working week, one of the shortest in the EU).
The National Front leader has also announced her intention to lower the retirement age to 60 years from 62.5 and limit the labor record required for getting a full pension to 40 years (it currently stands at over 41.5 years).
The National Front’s presidential candidate considers it necessary to put an end to "uncontrolled migration," tighten the procedure of granting the French citizenship to foreigners (in particular, the French passport should not be issued on the ground that a person was born on the territory of the country), introduce an immigration quota of no more than 10,000 newcomers a year (every year, 230,000 immigrants obtain residence permits in France), ban the naturalization of illegal migrants and simplify the procedure of their deportation.
She would like only French citizens to keep the right to education free of charge. Le Pen also wants to boost the police personnel by 15,000 (currently, about 92,000).
Besides, the National Front’s candidate intends to slash the number of lawmakers and senators to 500 (currently, 925).
Before the first round of the presidential elections, she spoke about the need to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the European Union. After getting into the runoff, Marine Le Pen proposed changing the European Union’s "totalitarian" structure and creating a new organization, the European Alliance of Free and Sovereign States, which would enable countries "to unite in projects that do not contradict national interests."
Marine Le Pen advocates the country’s exit from NATO’s military structures (a similar step was made by Charles de Gaulle in 1966) and the Schengen zone.
She considers it necessary to lift the anti-Russian sanctions and has promised to recognize the legitimacy of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, if she is elected the president of France.