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BACKGROUND The main candidates in the French presidential election

Europe
20.03.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris (dpa) - Here is a quick guide to the main candidates in the French presidential election.

The election takes place over two stages: if no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round on April 23, the top two go through to a run-off vote on May 7.

MARINE LE PEN

The 48-year-old daughter of far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has been hard at work polishing and moderating her party‘s image since she took over from her father in 2011. Her "de-demonization" operation has even involved expelling the elder Le Pen in response to his repeated minimization of the Holocaust.

One poll published Monday suggests she could gain 44 per cent of the second round vote if faced by Fillon, far ahead of the 18 per cent her father won after shocking France by making it to the second round in the 2002 election.

Le Pen pushes a strong law and order line and wants to pull France out of the euro single currency. She says that, unless she can restore French "sovereignty" over territory, economy, currency and laws, she will seek to take the country out of the EU outright. Her party constantly inveighs against immigration and any signs of Muslim identity in France. But on economic issues, she is more centrist, seeking to appeal to working class voters.

EMMANUEL MACRON

The 39-year-old former economy minister is the surprise story of the election campaign. He casts himself as a mould-breaker despite an elite CV. Macron studied at the Ecole Nationale d‘Administration which trains France‘s top bureaucrats, then worked as a tax inspector before joining the Rothschild merchant bank.

In 2012 he joined socialist President Francois Holland‘s team, and was economy minister from 2014 until last year. He is also well known for having married his high-school French teacher, 24 years his senior.

Macron combines economic and social liberalism - the polar opposite of Le Pen. He calls for spending cuts of 60 billion euros (64.5 billion dollars), mainly through adjusting health and unemployment insurance programmes. They would be countered by investments of 50 billion euros focused mainly on workforce training and green energy. His programme couples a "zero tolerance" approach to crime with incentives for employers who hire young people from the country‘s suburban trouble spots.

FRANCOIS FILLON

Fillon, 63, who served for five years as prime minister under right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, torpedoed his former boss‘s attempt to run again in 2017 partly by mocking his judicial woes. But his own campaign has foundered since satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine alleged that his wife had earned hundreds of thousands of euros serving as his parliamentary assistant for years without actually working.

Fillon vehemently denies the allegations, but has sunk to third place in the polls and has been formally placed under investigation by magistrates.

Fillon‘s policy proposals left him particularly vulnerable to such allegations: he wants to cut half a million public sector jobs, slash public spending by 100 billion euros, raise the retirement age to 65 and abolish the legally defined 35-hour working week.

An instinctive conservative, Fillon calls for a harsher justice system and would also like to impose school uniforms. He has called for strategic ties with Russia.

BENOIT HAMON

The 49-year-old Hamon served as social economy and then education minister under Hollande before resigning in 2014 in protest at what he saw as excessive economic liberalization. He won the left-wing primary election on a radical platform, calling for a universal basic income and a higher minimum wage. He promises to repeal a liberalizing labour law passed under Hollande.

Hamon has struggled to make an impact, outflanked on the left by Jean-Luc Melenchon while Macron peels off centrist and centre-left voters.

JEAN-LUC MELENCHON

The 65-year-old leftist firebrand left the Socialist Party in 2008 and founded a new Left Party. Melenchon came fourth in the 2012 election after Hollande, Sarkozy and Le Pen, picking up 11 per cent of the first round vote. This year he has stoutly resisted pressure to row in behind Hamon in an effort to ensure that there is a left-wing candidate in the second round.

Like Le Pen, he is anti-EU, but from a left-wing perspective, saying France should pull out of EU treaties that cement economically liberal policies.

 

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