French Elections Update: Introducing The Candidates

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Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front

The upcoming French elections are a key focus point for markets. With populist and nationalist political support growing there is an increasing concern that the future of the Eurozone in under threat. We will be bringing you weekly updates on the French elections as the campaign develops and to kick things off in this article we will introduce to you the key candidates for the 2017 French General Elections.

Marine Le Pen  – Far Right

Le Pen, head of the National Front, is the far-right candidate whose campaign has been encouraged by recent political developments in both the UK and the US.  Over the course of her presidential campaign in 2012, Le Pen cultivated a nationalist and protectionist programme with features including a pledge to abandon the Euro as well as restore tariffs and border controls for people and goods. Le Pen has pledged to cut immigration by 95% to just 10,000 migrants a year.

In a revision of her tactics, Le Pen has also set her sights on claiming the support of those voters disillusioned with the traditional left via announcing plans to reduce the retirement age to 60 and boost public services.

Francois Fillon – Centre Right

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Fillon was previously a prime minister under Sarkozy, often referred to by the French media as “Mister Nobody”. Indeed, Fillon was the unexpected winner of the centre-right Republican nomination in November last year, claiming victory over both his former chief and poll favourite Alain Juppe.

Fillon has publicised his admiration of Margaret Thatcher and has appropriately put forward a plan to roll back the state. Fillon is advocating a dismantling of the 35-hour work week, increasing the pension age to 65 and cutting public sector employment by 500k.

Fillon is also a practicing Catholic and is catering his campaign to attract the support of France’s ageing and affluent middle class demographic by pledging a return to socialism. The centre-right candidate has also previously publicised his opposition to gay marriage as well as a hard-line take on immigration and Islamic terrorism.

Emmanuel Macron – Independent

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Until becoming Hollande’s economy minister in 2014, Macron had been a relative unknown in French politics.

Macron has publicly shown dissatisfaction for the current party structure and has cultivated his own cross-party operation: En Marche! Macron blurs both left and right political ideas and utilises social media to gain the support of the younger demographic. In a modernist twist, Macron is also offering a prospective MP position via an online application form and has voiced his opposition to striking deals with other parties.

Macron, who is a former Rothschild banker, has not yet published an official policy programme though it is worth noting that under the former Hollande administration he was a supporter of increased labour market flexibility, economic reform, and social mobility.

Jean-Luc Melenchon – Independent – Far left

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Melecnhon is known as a fierce advocate of far left politics in France. This year, Melechon, who is a former socialist minister, is running without backing from socialist or communist parties. Melenchon, who came fourth in the 2012 elections, has created a new movement called La France Isoumise. The party promises to evenly distribute the country’s wealth, raise the minimum wage, prioritise environmental issues and end austerity via a renegotiation of European treaties.

Benoit Hamon – Independent – Centre Left

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Hamon has gained a rebel status similar to that of Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and beat poll favourite Manuel Valls to take forward the Socialist party nomination.

Hamon left the Valls’ government in 2014 to lead a rebellion against the former premier’s labour reforms. His policies include plans to introduce a universal basic income, a 32-hour working week, taxation of industrial robots and legalisation of marijuana.

Hamon claims that economic growth is an “overrated “quasi-religion” for most policy makers and his views have earned hi the support of those leftist voters dissatisfied with Hollande’s pro-business move. Hamon has noted that he will seek an alliance with far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

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