Where do France’s election candidates stand?
Learn the French presidential candidates’ stances on everything from economy and migration to foreign policy and the EU.
France held the first round of its presidential elections on April 22. The runoff will take place between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande on May 6, since no candidate won an outright majority.
The grid below shows where France’s ten presidential candidates from the first round stand on a range of issues, including foreign policy, the economy and the future of the European Union.
You can see a short summary of their views. Hover over any cell in the grid for more detailed information:
Union for Popular Movement
|End the 35-hour work week; reduce cost of labour.||First term far more interventionist than predecessors.||Higher value-added tax but no income tax changes.||Reduce immigration by nearly 50 per cent.||Wants tighter controls on intra-EU movement; a “Buy European” act.||Apprenticeships for students and multidisciplinary degrees.|
|Tighter controls on banks; reduce public debt.||Withdraw from Afghanistan; enlarge UN Security Council.||75 per cent tax rate on high earners.||Argues that his opponents are exaggerating the problem.||Wants ECB to favor job creation instead of austerity.||60,000 new teaching jobs within five years.|
|“No austerity” and a retirement age of 60.||Withdraw from Afghanistan and quit NATO.||100 per cent taxes for earnings above $473,000.||Looser laws; repeal recent immigration laws.||Wants to renegotiate several major EU agreements.||More teaching jobs; public education from age two.|
|Marine Le Pen
|A “buy French” law and a public deficit at zero.||Withdraw from Afghanistan.||Fight tax havens; tax benefits for small businesses.||Reduce the number of immigrants by 95 per cent.||Withdraw from the eurozone.||More teachers; more discipline in schools.|
|Benefits for small businesses; a “made in France” label.||Reform the UN Security Council; withdraw from Afghanistan.||Increase income tax on high earners, and value-added tax.||Moderate: Supports residency for some illegal migrants.||Wants a more “democratic and transparent” EU.||Smaller class sizes, more independence for schools.|
The Green Party
|Employees would have more of a voice in their companies.||Withdraw from Afghanistan, shut foreign military bases, recognise Palestine.||Higher taxes on high earners; tax financial transactions.||Residency for long-term undocumented migrants.||New EU constitution based on a federal model.||20,000 new teaching staff; merge primary, secondary schools.|
|Increase minimum wage and social welfare benefits.||Close all foreign military bases; recognise Palestine.||Eliminate all tax exemptions for big business.||Residency and right to vote for all foreign workers.||Wants the EU to become a “socialist federation.”||More teachers, smaller class sizes.|
Solidarity and Progress
|Separate savings and credit banks; higher minimum wage.||Immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan; quit NATO.||Progressive: Lower taxes on the poor, raise them for the rich.||Promote integration with language courses and other lessons.||Drop single currency; end ECB’s control over monetary policy.||Recruit more teachers; public childcare from age two.|
Arise the Republic
|Nationalise the energy industry; salary cap in state firms.||Withdraw from NATO, develop French schools abroad.||Increase the tax rate on capital; slash exemptions.||Reduce the number of migrants by 50 per cent.||Believes all EU treaties signed since 2005 illegitimate.||More time spent teaching French; recruit 30,000 new teachers.|
New Anticapitalist Party
|Raise minimum wage to $1,700/month; ban layoffs.||Withdraw from Afghanistan, quit NATO, shrink arms industry.||End tax exemptions; 100 per cent tax rate on earnings above $340,000.||Abolish “anti-immigration” laws and grant residency to migrants.||Wants a socialist EU.||All education would be free and public; secular schools.|
For his second term, Sarkozy promises to end the 35-hour work week and to reduce the cost of labour for employers. He says he will also reduce public spending, and promises to promote exports by small and medium-sized businesses. Unemployment benefits would be gradually reduced.
Sarkozy would like the G8 and the G20 to be merged into a single body. He will continue to oppose the prospect of Turkey becoming a member of the EU. But he supports EU accession for the Balkan states. More emphasis would be placed on promoting the French language abroad. His first presidency has been characterised by a far more interventionist approach than his predecessors embraced, with French troops seeing action in Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Libya, Mauritania and Mali.
Sarkozy promises not to raise personal income tax, but would raise France’s value-added tax (TVA). He says he will create a law enforcement agency to fight fiscal and welfare fraud, and that tax evaders will be made to pay higher taxes for their crimes.
Sarkozy promises to crackdown on immigration in his second term, and has hardened his tone as the presidential election draws closer. He would reduce immigration by nearly 50 per cent, he says. More migrants would be deported to their countries of origins. Development assistance for the countries where migrants are coming from would be conditional on those countries’ willingness to accept deportees.
Sarkozy has threatened to close France’s borders within 12 months unless the EU does more to regulate movement within the Schengen Area, although commentators have said he would be unlikely to carry through on this promise.
He has also advocated a “Buy European Act” to be introduced by the EU, which would oblige the governments of member states to favour European-produced products in public contracts.
He advocates the creation of a new European body to regulate competition and industrial policy.
Sarkozy would like more emphasis on professional experience at high school and university level. From the age of 14, students would have the choice to do apprenticeships. At university level, he favours the introduction of multidisciplinary degrees. He believes scholars should work more closely with the business world and do more to gain financial success from their research.
Hollande would like to separate banks’ retail and savings activities from their risky speculative transactions. He promises to reduce France’s public debt to three per cent of the GDP. He argues the government should do more to combat high unemployment and promote French industry. He would subsidise jobs in areas with high youth employment.
Hollande plans on withdrawing French troops from Afghanistan immediately. He proposes an enlargement of the UN Security Council, with France keeping its seat and veto power. He wants to see peace talks between Israel and Palestine revived. France should build a relationship with African nations based on equality and solidarity, instead of relationships tainted by vestiges of the colonial era, he says.
French banks would be banned from holding accounts in tax havens and Hollande would ramp up efforts against fiscal fraud. He would push for bilateral conventions with favoured tax havens including Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Hollande would like to increase France’s value-added tax (TVA) and introduce a Tobin tax on all financial transactions. Those earning more than $1,306,000 annually would be taxed at 75 per cent.
Hollande has called for immigration to be discussed in rational terms, arguing that Sarkozy and Le Pen are exaggerating the issue. He promises to fight unauthorised immigration and illegal employment. Residency should be granted on a case-by-case basis. Foreigners who have lived in France for more than five years should be granted the right to vote.
Hollande wants the EU to introduce its own budget by 2014, to be used for major European projects. He would like to see the European Central Bank adopt policies favouring job creation and economic growth rather than austerity. Spurred by the recent controversy surrounding ratings agencies, Hollande advocates the creation of a public European ratings agency. The euro should be close to being on par with the Chinese Yuan and the US dollar, argues Hollande.
There would be 60,000 new teaching staff created within five years, and teaching methods would be updated. All young people should have the possibility to join a sports team, he says, and France should host more international sporting competitions to help motivate young people. At university, there should be more flexibility for students to study a range of subjects.
There would be no austerity under Mélenchon. He promises immediate re-instatement the retirement age to 60, with pensioners receiving 75 per cent of their former salary in old age. Minimum wage would be raised to 1,700 euros a month ($2,230), an increase of 21.6 per cent. The 35 hour working week would be maintained.
Mélenchon wants to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan immediately. France should quit NATO, he believes. He advocates reforming the UN to prioritise social and environmental functions. Developing countries would have their debts erased. He supports the recognition of Palestine. He opposes the IMF for its advocacy of austerity and the WTO for its promotion of free trade.
To pay for the increase in social spending, the Left Front candidate would increase taxes to 100 per cent for additional income earned after a cap of $473,000. This policy risks breaching the French constitution. Although if Mélenchon carries through with his promise to establish a 6th Republic, he could avoid constitutional restraints altogether by rewriting the rules.
In Mélenchon’s view, France’s immigrant population contributes culturally and economically to the country. He would respect the right of refugees to seek asylum in France and shut down detention centres. French nationality would become a right after five years of residency. The series of amendments to immigration law that have been introduced since 2002 would be repealed under Mélenchon.
Many of Mélenchon’s policies, particularly in terms of the economy, would not sit well with Brussels. His plans to expand France’s public sector and renationalise French energy companies, insurance companies and banks are likely to shock EU bureaucrats – nationalisations are legal under European law, but monopolies are not. Mélenchon’s promises to renegotiate or scrap several of the EU’s major agreements, including the controversial Lisbon Treaty and the euro pact, have major ramifications.
Mélenchon would raise study grants and create more teaching jobs. Children could be enrolled in public education from the age of two.
Le Pen advocates a “Buy French” law to ensure that public and private businesses would have to prioritise French produce in their canteens. She promises to “reindustrialise France”. Deposit banks would be partially nationalised. She also wants to bring the retirement age back down to 60. Le Pen advocates introducing a law to keep France’s public deficit at zero, far below its current altitude of $156bn.
Le Pen wants to end France’s involvement in Afghanistan, and criticises Sarkozy for committing French troops to the US-led mission. She prefers France to focus on alliances with Berlin and Moscow rather than with Britain and the US. France’s relationships with African countries would be dominated by security concerns and agreements to deport unauthorised migrants back to their countries of origin.
The National Front candidate promises to fight fiscal fraud and use of tax havens. Small businesses would receive more tax advantages under Le Pen, who believes that large corporations receive too many privileges.
Opposition to immigration and multiculturalism is the National Front’s bread and butter. Le Pen promises to reduce the number of immigrants arriving in France by a dramatic 95 per cent. She would abolish family reunification and drastically reduce the number of asylum seekers accepted every year. France would “take back” the policing of its borders, throwing out the EU policy of freedom of movement between member states.
Though a member of the European Parliament, Le Pen is extremely hostile to what she considers “an impotent, rootless empire”. If she were elected president, France would withdraw from the eurozone and return to a national currency. The Schengen Zone would be abolished and the EU flag would be banned from French public buildings.
Le Pen would like to see teachers have more authority over their students and would like to increase the number of teaching staff. She wants national education to focus on the “glory” of French civilisation. There would be more security in educational establishments, including metal detectors.
Small businesses that offer longterm employment to young or unemployed workers would be exempt from paying taxes on those salaries. Bayrou hopes to introduce a “French label” for products made entirely or mostly in France. He would introduce a points system for retirement. He supports the creation of a European public ratings agency.
Bayrou supports the reform of the UN Security Council to allow medium-sized countries to have more of a voice. He opposed Sarkozy’s decision to join NATO in 2009, and wants to withdraw French forces from Afghanistan. He has no firm stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
To help pay off France’s national debt, the centrist candidate would like to eliminate tax exemptions and increase France’s value-added tax (TVA). He would increase income tax to 50 per cent on incomes above $313,000. He favours tax advantages for “business angels” to help foster innovation. Businesses that could demonstrate social responsibility would pay reduced taxes.
Bayrou has a moderate stance on immigration. He believes migration flows need to be managed at the European level, in collaboration with the countries of origin. He supports unauthorised migrants being granted residency, as long as they have employment, housing and speak French.
Bayrou believes in the European project, but wants the EU to become more democratic and transparent. He has criticised France and Germany for dominating the union in recent years, arguing power needs to be shared by all member states. He would like to see the European Central Bank play a more active role by offering debt relief to member states where necessary. He advocates a strong president for the union, who would be elected by all European citizens.
Bayrou would like educational institutions to co-ordinate more with businesses. He promises to reduce time spent inside the classroom and have smaller numbers of pupils in every class. Educational institutions would be granted more independence. Half of class time in primary school would be devoted to studying the French language and written work. For university students, he promises to launch a programme to construct more shared student housing.
Companies planning to shut down a site would need to offer it for sale in case a buyer can be found who would maintain economic activity and save any jobs that might otherwise be lost. Employees would need to be consulted over any strategic decisions made by the companies for which they work. Joly would like to hold a national conference about the possibility of lowering the retirement age back to 60.
Joly wants to see international organisations reformed. She opposes the veto power held by members of the UN Security Council. She would like to see a new international body created to oversee international environmental issues. France would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, close down its foreign military bases and recognise the Palestinian state.
Reflecting her investigative background as an anti-corruption investigating judge, Joly promises to stand firm against tax evasion. Banks operating in tax havens would have their licences revoked and banking secrecy would no longer be tolerated. She supports a tax on all financial transactions. French citizens would have the right to declare bankruptcy. Income over $130,000 would be taxed at 60 per cent and income over $654,000 at 70 per cent.
Joly proposes that France grant residency to undocumented migrants if they have lived in France for more than five years, have children or have a job. Foreigners resident in France for more than five years would have the right to vote.
The Green candidate supports a new EU constitution based on a federal model. She would like to have the existing Stability and Growth Pact replaced with a Social and Economic Development Pact. Capital and business taxes would be harmonised across Europe, to discourage businesses from moving to other countries for tax reasons.
Joly would like to see 20,000 more teaching staff recruited and teacher training programmes to be invigorated. New ways of evaluating students’ performance would be introduced. Primary and secondary schools would be merged into a single school, to provide children with uninterrupted education. School districts would be rewritten, to avoid the educational ghettoisation of underprivileged areas.
Banks and capitalists would take responsibility for paying off the national debt. Arthaud wants to increase the minimum wage to $2,220 per month and to increase social welfare benefits. Retirement would be lowered to 60 for anyone who had earned a salary for 37.5 years. Women who take time out from the workforce to have children would also have that taken into account in determining their pensions.
The communist candidate opposes war, which she views as being primarily fuelled by imperialism and the arms industry. She opposes the French army’s presence in Afghanistan, Libya and the Ivory Coast, and would close down all France’s foreign military bases. France would recognise Palestine if she were to become president.
Arthaud would like to do away with all tax exemptions for big businesses. Companies threatening to close and move overseas would have their property seized without compensation. France’s value-added tax (TVA) would be eliminated and replaced by a tax on capital. Taxation would be “strongly progressive”.
Arthaud supports freedom of movement on a global scale. She would grant residency and the right to vote to all workers, regardless of their nationality.
Artaud supports the unification of Europe as a socialist federation, in a step towards “internationalisation”. The EU as it exists today is dominated by the interests of capitalists and bankers, she argues.
Arthaud would like to recruit teaching staff, particularly for underprivileged areas. She calls for smaller class sizes in all schools. Children for whom French is a second language would receive additional tuition.
Cheminade wants to see the global financial and monetary system transformed to put work and agricultural production back at the centre of wealth-creation. He wants to separate savings and credit banks from those speculating on international markets, and advocates stricter regulation of the finance sector in general. He would raise the minimum wage to $2,230 a month. The retirement age would be lowered to 60 for those who have worked for at least 41.5 years. Pensions would be linked to a price index, and be capped at 10 times the minimum wage.
Cheminade supports an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. He would pull France out of NATO. “Defence of the national territory” and civil development projects abroad would be the army’s main duties.
Cheminade favours a more progressive form of taxation, beginning at two per cent for those who earn above $2,873 a month, and rising to 70 per cent for incomes over $130,000. Banks based in tax havens would face restrictions, and a “black list” would be created of countries that refuse to co-operate with fiscal enforcement.
Cheminade wants to promote development in the countries where migrants are coming from, including the financing of large infrastructure projects. He would also focus on helping new migrants integrate into French society, providing them with language courses and lessons on French values. He would establish a ministry of co-operation, co-development and immigration to oversee these functions.
Cheminade would like to see culture and people prioritised by the EU, rather than finance. Instead of a single currency, he would like to see “national euros” introduced. He would end the European Central Bank’s control over the union’s monetary policy. He would like to see the European Space Agency’s budget tripled and a global space programme launched, with a budget of $500bn.
Cheminade would recruit more teaching staff, reversing the cutbacks under Sarkozy. Children could be enrolled in public childcare from the age of two. He would increase teachers’ salaries, particularly for those working in lower socio-economic areas. The curriculum would be reinvigorated to make more room for art, music and philosophy.
All products would need to be labelled to clarify what percentage was “Made in France”. Public services would need to favour products produced in France. A salary cap of 36 times the minimum wage would be introduced in all companies in which the state holds a stake. Energy companies including EDF and GDF would be nationalised.
France should once again withdraw from NATO, Dupont-Aignan believes, and go back to its traditional military independence. French culture should be integral to France’s foreign policy, notably through the development of French schools abroad. He wants to see the International Organisation of French Language regain its position as a pillar of foreign policy.
Tax on capital would be increased to a scale similar to tax on incomes. Tax exemptions would be slashed and large companies would lose tax privileges they were granted in 2004 under the Copé law. Smaller businesses would be given tax exemptions to stimulate job creation. A small tax on all French citizens residing overseas would be introduced. Capital movement across borders would be tightly controlled.
Dupont-Aignan promises to reduce the number of new migrants by 50 per cent annually, excluding students. There would be “zero tolerance” for unauthorised migrants.
France’s overwhelming vote against the ratification of an EU constitution in 2005 means all EU treaties that have been signed since then are illegitimate, Dupont-Aignan argues. He wants France to withdraw from the eurozone to establish a new currency pegged to the euro. He says the EU Court of Justice, European Central Bank and European Commission are all anti-democratic.
More time in primary education would be dedicated to teaching French language. Teachers would have more authority. Disruptive pupils could be expel and moved to specialised educational institutions. Dupont-Aignan would like to see research come back under the control of the France state, and for more value to be placed on research. He would like to see an additional 30,000 teacher staff recruited, and for teachers working in difficult areas to be better compensated.
Poutou would raise the minimum wage to $1,700 a month. Layoffs would be banned and jobs would be created in the public health and education sectors. He would enact policies to ensure women are paid equally to men, and to ensure that women do not suffer economic disadvantages in retirement for having taken time out of paid work to have children. He would return the retirement age to 60.
Poutou would withdraw French troops from Afghanistan immediately and quit NATO. France’s arms industry would be converted into another economic activity and the country’s military bases in Africa would be closed. France’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council would be abolished under his plan. Poutou supports the recognition of Palestine.
Poutou would end tax exemptions for large companies. He would increase taxes on big business and the very wealthy. He supports a more progressive form of taxation, with 100 per cent tax of all income above $340,000.
Poutou supports freedom of movement and of residency. He would abolish all “anti-immigration” laws introduced over the past 30 years, particularly the tough measures enacted since 2002. All unauthorised migrants in France would be granted immediate and permanent residency. All foreign students would have automatic residency for the duration of their studies.
Poutou advocates a complete revision of the basic structures of the EU, to break with the capitalist principles which underpin the existing European institutions. The overriding objectives of the EU should be based on social needs and democratic principles, he says.
All education would be entirely free. There would be no private gender-segregated or religious schools. All schools would be public, free and secular. Universities would not be forced to earn profits and compete in the marketplace. Children could be enrolled in public childcare from the age of two. Competitive grading would be abolished in the school system.