When French people elect their next president, they will be choosing between dramatically different visions of how the country’s future will look.
Candidates such as Jean-Luc Melenchon on the left and Marine Le Pen on the far right want to redefine France’s future relationship with the EU ; they’ve gone as far as mulling over the country’s withdrawal from the bloc.
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Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, is a passionate defender of the EU and wants France to play an integral role in its future.
Europe is just one of the fault lines, with candidates also divided on the economy, foreign policy, immigration, and relations with France’s Muslim community.
Below is a guide to where the five-leading candidates stand on key issues affecting the country.
Candidates are positioned according to how they performed in an Ipsos opinion poll carried out on April 12 and 13.
The former investment banker refers to himself as a “convinced European” and wants a more integrated EU, in which member states are more strongly embedded.
An economic liberal, Macron wants to reduce corporate and wealth taxes, as well as cutting public spending by $64bn and reducing the state’s headcount by 120,000 positions.
Macron backed intervention against the Syrian government for its apparent chemical weapons use in rebel-held territory.
The candidate is opposed to purported Russian attempts to assert its influence on French domestic policy and accuses Moscow of working against his campaign.
He has also criticised France’s colonial legacy in Algeria as a “crime against humanity”.
Macron favours strong external EU borders and a united European policy, so countries such as Greece are not disproportionately affected.
Macron has spoken out against discriminatory policies targeting the country’s Muslim population and has declared: “No religion is a problem in France.”
Marine Le Pen
The far-right leader wants to renegotiate France’s relationship with the EU and has warned of a French withdrawal from the eurozone if she wins.
Le Pen is a critic of austerity policies and has promised to protect state workers, as well as reducing the retirement age to 60.
Le Pen wants stronger ties with Moscow and is against intervention against the Syrian government.
She is also a critic of France’s membership of NATO .
The National Front leader wants to drastically cut immigration to no more than 10,000 people a year.
Le Pen is a critic of Islam and has aligned herself with other anti-Muslim far-right leaders across Europe
She has compared prayers that spill over on to public streets to the Nazi occupation of France.
Her recent comments denying French involvement of Jews in Paris during the Holocaust drew criticism from Jewish groups.
The leftist is a critic of the EU, arguing that it is a vehicle for neo-liberal economic policies.
As president, Melenchon would renegotiate France’s ties to the EU and put the country’s continued membership of the bloc to a referendum.
Melenchon wants to end austerity policies, increase public spending, and introduce a 100 percent tax on earnings above $35,000 a month.
Melenchon is an opponent of NATO and of belligerent ties with Moscow.
He is also against intervention against the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad .
The leftist has has paid condolences to refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean but has not offered an alternative to France’s current immigration policy
Melenchon is a staunch defender of French secularism and is against public displays of faith, but has compared rhetoric against Muslims to what French Protestants and Jews historically experienced.
The conservative candidate backs to EU but is opposed to the Schengen system of borderless travel between members of the bloc.
A fiscal conservative, Fillon wants to slash public spending by more than $100bn over five years and cut 500,000 state jobs.
Fillon favours closer ties with Moscow but wants France to remain strong allies with the US and NATO countries.
The former prime minister wants the introduction of a quota limiting the number of immigrants entering France.
The devout Catholic has called for a “Islam of France” and says he wants Muslims to do more to tackle hardline groups.
Hamon is pro-European but backs reforms that would give elected European officials more oversight of the eurozone.
The Socialist Party candidate wants to introduce a basic income for all French citizens and cut the working week down to 32 hours, as well as increasing public spending by introducing taxes on the wealthiest.
Hamon backed recent strikes by the US on a Syrian military installation and wants a tougher stance on alleged Russian belligerence against the EU.
The former minister for education wants a more open asylum policy that emphasises the integration of those seeking refuge.
Hamon wants refugees to have the right to work shortly after arriving, as well as free French classes.
Hamon has criticised the politicisation of French secularism to target Muslims.