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Alexei Chikhachev

International Relations Department, St. Petersburg State University Republican Party

The first round of the presidential election in France resulted in two leaders obtaining the right to continue their fight for the Elysee Palace. E. Macron has gained support from his former opponents, who dropped out of the race, and is now creating a classical all-party front against the far-right M. Le Pen. While the presidential campaign is always a lot of public-image fighting and is very subjective, the candidates’ program points, which are the true identifiers of objective differences, should be focused on. Moreover, these extremely different points gain in importance during the second round, as the winner will get all levers of power, in both foreign and internal policy lines.

The second round of elections in France is the meeting of two extremes. E. Macron will finalize his progressivist, globalist, pro-European program in an attempt to balance the interests of all of his allies. M. Le Pen, on the contrary, will try to preserve the image of the peoples’ candidate and stress the need for civil basics in country governance.


The first round of the presidential election in France resulted in two leaders obtaining the right to continue their fight for the Elysee Palace. E. Macron has gained support from his former opponents, who dropped out of the race, and is now creating a classical all-party front against the far-right M. Le Pen. While the presidential campaign is always a lot of public-image fighting and is very subjective, the candidates’ program points, which are the true identifiers of objective differences, should be focused on. Moreover, these extremely different points gain in importance during the second round, as the winner will get all levers of power, in both foreign and internal policy lines.

An Example of Success

Emmanuel Macron — the founder of the En Marche! («Forward!») movement, is the rising star of French politics. He became famous countrywide in 2015 as the author of the Macron Law, aiming to boost economic growth and change the situation in the labour market.

Generally, his supporters argue that he possesses some newness and lacks any major scandal involvement, unlike his competitors. At the same time his opponents pay attention to the low numbers in his income statement and find his rapid career development perplexing and likely connected to the Rothschilds' influence.

Key Points in E. Macron’s Program: Realistic or Not?

Economy and Finance:

  • Keep 35-hour legal work week, but let companies negotiate real work hours;
  • Ban property tax (ISF) for the investor-companies, replace it with immovable property tax (IFI);
  • Cut corporate tax to 25%;
  • Provide financial incentives for companies hiring the inhabitants of designated “priority” districts;
  • Establish a complex €50 billion investment plan in areas such as job training for youth and unemployed (15 billion), and for «green economy» needs (15 billion)

Social Sphere:

  • Decrease the number of civil servants by 120,000 people;
  • Retain the retirement age of 62 and create universal retirement rules to apply equally to civil servants and employees of the private sector;
  • Ensure unemployment benefits program;
  • Increase the autonomy of secondary education institutions, create more «priority educational zones» by increasing the salaries for teachers, reducing class sizes in schools, and hiring up to 5,000 more teachers;
  • Keep the law the same regarding same-sex marriages and ensure equal rights to minorities and differing genders;
  • Partially ban the housing tax (refunding in the regional budget to be performed by the state).
The former Minister of Economics is likely to follow the path of prudent reforms, developing the points of his own law of 2015.

Serious questions are arising from Macron’s opponents in regard to the social-economic part of the program. The former Minister of Economics is likely to follow the path of prudent reforms, developing the points of his own law of 2015.

Security and Immigration:

  • Keep the jus soli principle and the existing rules of family reunification;
  • Process political asylum requests faster;
  • Enforce integration programs for foreigners arriving in France;
  • Reduce the time required to obtain a “talent” visa – a visa that allows skilled professionals to work in France based on their profession;
  • Provide help to the migration flow donor-countries;
  • Guarantee total religious freedom with the necessary respect to the secular Republic;
  • Re-establish the locally controlled police service (de proximité), reinforce police power by another 10,000 people.

This part is more than just realistic, if one keeps in mind that the system of selective immigration and immigrant integration was implemented in France in 2006 under the Sarcozy Law. No radical measures are suggested against the Muslim population. The «chances for all» slogans and the respect for differences and solidarity will not harshly limit the immigration flow.

Institutional Reforms:

  • Ensure absolute legal compliance of all candidates for any electoral position;
  • Ban holding office for more than three times in a row for the same mandate;
  • Decrease the lawmaking process time to one reading in each chamber, decrease the number of senators and deputies;
  • Employ elements of proportional voting system (starting with the Senate).
No radical measures are suggested against the Muslim population. The «chances for all» slogans and the respect for differences and solidarity will not harshly limit the immigration flow.

It is highly likely that such propositions were not inspired by lengthy reflections, but by the way the campaign was going. E. Macron might not want to implement them immediately. Though the candidate promises to transform the political life in the country, no one expects a complete shift away from the system of the Fifth Republic.

Foreign Policy:

  • Ensure further Euro-integration in all possible spheres, enforce European identity;
  • Continue close cooperation with NATO;
  • Extend the right of the permanent membership in the UNSC to Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, and one African state;
  • Continue sanctions against Russia until the Minsk Agreements’ requirements are fulfilled;
  • Pay special attention to climate change and assist in the development and promotion of human values.

These ideas continue on the basis of F. Hollande’s policy lines — from the European course to the perception of relations with Russia — it means that no efforts must be taken to change the foreign policy course.

By the Will of People

Marine Le Pen, the second finalist of the elections, is a widely known politician even abroad. Marine Le Pen turned the Popular Front from an organization with highly toxic ideas into an organization seen as more or less acceptable by the community party of conservative traditionalists. Even if there were many intimidating stories around M. Le Pen, media and other politicians still take her skeptically resulting from the years of her father’s leadership.

Key points in Le Pen’s Program: Realistic or Not?

Economy and Finance:

  • Lead the protectionism policy line, support national manufacturers;
  • Pull out of Eurozone;
  • Provide state control over strategically important economic sectors;
  • Reduce the tax burden for small and middle-sized companies;
  • Preserve a 35-hour working week, but let industries negotiate real work hours.
Marine Le Pen turned the Popular Front from an organization with highly toxic ideas into an organization seen as more or less acceptable by the community party of conservative traditionalists.

Social Sphere:

  • Decrease the retirement age to 60;
  • Add a principle of national priority to the Constitution, encouraging employers to hire French employees;
  • Keep the social benefit rights only to the French;
  • Boost the teaching of the French language, provide half of the curriculum hours in the primary school for learning French;
  • Focus on regional politics, develop rural areas.

M. Le Pen’s social sphere program points were highly criticized not only by her competitors, but also by scientists. 25 Nobel Prize Laureates in Economic Sciences opposed the anti-European ideas of the Popular Front leader. They warn that unilateral withdrawal from the European Union, Eurozone, and the Schengen space will lead to incalculable consequences for the French economy.

Security and Immigration:

  • Hire 15,000 police and security forces, create 40,000 new prison cells;
  • Automatically deport any foreign criminal offenders;
  • Scratch the right of birthplace;
  • Cut legal immigration to 10,000 a year, limit the family reunification practice;
  • Pull out of the Schengen accord, re-establish the Customs Service;
  • Employ a more severe «republican assimilation» of the immigrants instead of their integration.

According to the Ministry of Justice, as of April 1, 2017, French prisons had a total of 58,670 cells (for 70,230 prisoners). Thus M. Le Pen’s promise almost doubles the enlargement of the prison system, which will take a lot of time and money from the budget. Harsh migration policy goes hand-in-hand with the review of France in the EU, while the 10,000 legal immigrants aspect is not justified in the program text.

The EU membership referendum is a vulnerable point in M. Le Pen’s program. This is because in the event of the referendum failing a major share of the propositions in other sections of her program would no longer make sense.

Institutional Reforms:

  • Change the voting system to proportional for every election;
  • Cut the number of lawmakers at the National Assembly to 300 and Senate to 200;
  • Cut local administration and shrink the levels of local types of governments by half;
  • Make citizen-initiated referendums easier to organize, on the initiative of 500,000 citizens;
  • Extend the Presidential term to seven years without the right to re-election.

These proposals might be realistic if the other parties would support them. However, this is unlikely given that they will not support the proportional voting system (its main beneficiary being the Popular Front) or the cut to the local administrations, which usually bring a lot of mandates to traditional powers (and now to En Marche!).

Foreign Policy:

  • Pull out of NATO military command, increase defense spending (to 3 percent of GDP by 2022, build a new aircraft carrier, increase the number of armed police force by 50,000, extra purchase of French military equipment);
  • Organize a referendum on France’s European Union membership;
  • Aim at building a multipolar world, foreign policy based on realism principles;
  • Strengthen connections with French-speaking countries, provide help to African countries (from education to security and defense).

Purchasing new aircraft, tanks, combat vehicles, and, moreover, an aircraft carrier will seriously increase the cost of the Popular Front leader’s presidential project. The EU membership referendum is a vulnerable point in M. Le Pen’s program. This is because in the event of the referendum failing a major share of the propositions in other sections of her program would no longer make sense.

***

The second round of elections in France is the meeting of two extremes. E. Macron will finalize his progressivist, globalist, pro-European program in an attempt to balance the interests of all of his allies. M. Le Pen, on the contrary, will try to preserve the image of the peoples’ candidate and stress the need for civil basics in country governance.

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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
     12 (12%)
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     4 (4%)
    Toughening economic sanctions against North Korea  
     2 (2%)
 
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