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Top four of french candidates

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
The three men and a woman battling to be president of France
France is heading for an unprecedented four-way contest in the first round of its presidential vote on April 23, according to opinion polls.
Paris (dpa) - Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are out in front, the polls suggest, but conservative Francois Fillon and radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon are not far behind.

Here is a quick look at the four top contestants.

If no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round, the top two go through to a run-off vote on May 7.


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 for his repeated remarks downplaying the Holocaust.

Her efforts have born fruit. No polls so far have shown her winning in the second round, but they say she could get more than 40 per cent of the run-off vote, 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 France‘s sovereignty over its 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.
Leader of the French right-wing party Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen delivers her speech during a meeting in the run-up to the 2014 Municipal elections in Sete, Southern France, 17 January 2014.


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.


Fillon, 63, should have been the elder statesman in the race.

He served as prime minister under right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012, and speaks with authority when debates turn to topics such as foreign policy and France‘s place in the EU.

But his campaign foundered in January when 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 he and his wife have both 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.
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.


The 65-year-old leftist firebrand has been another surprise of this campaign. Lagging in fifth place until mid-March, his lively performance in two televised debates has seen him rise in the polls and some now show him catching up with Fillon.

Although coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum from Le Pen, Melenchon too appeals to disenchanted voters. 

He proposes raising the minimum wage, imposing a maximum salary of 20 times the lowest salary paid in any business, and hiking taxes on the wealthy. 

A Melenchon presidency could pose almost as many problems for the EU as a win for Le Pen: the leftist veteran says France should pull out of EU treaties that cement economically liberal policies.

But it might not last long, because Melenchon has also vowed to end France‘s presidential system. He promises that once elected he will convene a citizens‘ assembly to write a new constitution, and step down once it comes into force.
The 65-year-old leftist firebrand has been another surprise of this campaign. Lagging in fifth place until mid-March, his lively performance in two televised debates has seen him rise in the polls and some now show him catching up with Fillon.


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