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Le Pen Mixes Hardline Policies With Social Welfare to W...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Le Pen Mixes Hardline Policies With Social Welfare to Widen Appeal

French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party candidate Marine Le Pen (C) arrives at Salons Hoche hotel to hold a press conference on her Foreign Affairs politics in Paris, France, 13 April 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron will face French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential elections on 24 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT)
By Bloomberg
19 Apr 2022 0

Nationalist leader Marine Le Pen has never led in the three campaigns she’s run for France’s top job. But she’s finally making it close.

Her increasingly protectionist stance on economic issues in recent years has allowed her to reach some voters who have traditionally backed left-wing candidates and have been angered by Emmanuel Macron’s support for business and investment. She’s hoping her current focus on social welfare will convince more of them to pick her in the final ballot of the presidential election April 24, or at the very least, abstain instead of turning up for her rival.

Yet the 53-year-old’s views on immigration, authority and identity remain steeped in the traditions of the far-right and her stance on Europe and NATO have allies concerned that if elected, she would put the brakes on common projects.

Nicolas Lebourg, a French political scientist who studies radical political groups, describes Le Pen’s program as one of “ethno-liberalism.”

Below are the main planks of her platform.

Fiscal Policy

► Taxes

Le Pen has pledged to waive income tax for workers up to age 30 and exempt businesses from tax contributions if they raise salaries by 10%. She would lower inheritance taxes.

She wants to create a new wealth tax and reduce VAT on energy to 5.5% from 20%, and slash it entirely on some essential products, such as pasta, salt and diapers.

Her goal is to privatize public broadcasting to abolish the license fee.

Tax Burden | France ranked 2nd out of 38 OECD countries in terms of tax-to-GDP ratio

► Le Pen is promising to take on significant expenses to boost the French people’s purchasing power including with zero interest loans for homebuyers, lower taxes on energy, inheritance and basic goods and higher wages for teachers. She’s also pledged to build new prisons and 20 new nuclear reactors.

The total bill would come to about 120 billion ($129 billion) euros a year, compared to 70 billion euros estimated by Le Pen, according to Institut Montaigne, an independent think-tank close to Macron.

► Finances

Le Pen’s fiscal policies won’t be enough to fund her program, which would increase the state deficit by around 100 billion euros a year, according to Institut Montaigne.

Social Policy

► Labor

Le Pen would grant cash incentives to businesses that hire young workers. She wants stricter border controls for the circulation of goods to protect French workers from “unfair competition.”

She intends to raise the salaries across many state-controlled sectors, including education and health.

► Pensions

Le Pen once pledged to re-introduce retirement at age 60 — a measure implemented by Socialist president Francois Mitterand in 1982. Now, she only wants retirement to start at 60 for those who started their career before 20. She also wants to raise the minimum state pension to 1,000 euros a month, and increase payouts based on inflation.

►  Education

Her priority would be to make the main secondary school exam much more difficult.

She would prioritize French, math and history and ax lessons in immigrants’ native languages. Le Pen wants to make uniforms mandatory through middle school. She would limit the number of students per class to 20 in primary school and 30 in high school.

Booksmart

► Health

Le Pen plans “massive” recruitment in healthcare, higher wages for nurses and more beds in intensive care units. She wants to offer bonuses for doctors to set up practices in areas where medical services are sparse. She also says she’d cut publicly-funded medical help for foreigners living in France illegally.

She opposes policies introduced by Macron that essentially make Covid vaccinations mandatory.

Foreign Affairs and Defence

►  NATO and Russia

Le Pen wants NATO to forge an alliance with Moscow when the war in Ukraine is over. She also wants France to leave NATO’s integrated command, a structure described as the military alliance’s “backbone.” That would be the only way to prevent a China-Russia pact from emerging, according to her, but the comments have invited closer scrutiny of her past links to the Kremlin.

She says she wants France to be independent — whether it’s from the EU, the U.S. or Russia.

Marine Le Pen’s Ties to Russia May Come Back to Haunt Her

Europe

► Le Pen has given up on taking France out of the Europe Union. Instead, she wants to pick EU measures “à la carte.” To try to make that a reality, she’d hold a referendum on revising the constitution to make French law superior to EU rules. (The legality of the referendum is likely to be challenged.) She wants to restore permanent border controls in the Schengen zone, which would contradict EU law.

She could disrupt trade flows with her review of free trade agreements that “don’t serve France’s interests,” and she plans to give priority to small French companies in public tender offers. Her pledge to slash France’s contribution to the EU would have a considerable impact on joint projects as France is a net contributor to the bloc.

Climate

►  Le Pen says she wants to stick to the Paris climate accord. Yet she doesn’t want France to be part of the European Commission’s proposed Green Deal, which seeks to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.

To reduce emissions, Le Pen said she’ll launch the construction of at least 20 nuclear reactors, develop hydroelectricity, and encourage geothermal energy.

At the same time, she pledged to halt wind and solar developments, scrap subsidies for such energies, halt onshore and offshore wind farms under construction, and progressively take down turbines.

Nuclear Rules | Atomic power dominates the French electricity system.

To boost households’ purchasing power, she pledged to reduce taxes on gasoline, diesel, electricity and heating, which could translate in higher consumption, and therefore more emissions. This would be partly funded with a windfall tax on the profits of TotalEnergies and Engie SA. She also promised to exit Europe’s electricity market and to provide “competitive regulated” power prices for businesses, and loans for motorists to help them adapt their cars’ engine to use ethanol.

On the top of that, France would nationalize toll roads and lower toll fees, according to her manifesto.

Read More: Le Pen Puts Fuel-Tax Cut, Wind Crackdown at Heart of Energy Plan

Security

►  Strict law and order enforcement has always been a priority for Le Pen. She wants mass hiring of police officers and would establish a presumption of legitimate self defense for the police. Her manifesto pledges to increase the number of prison places to 85,000 in six years, although it’s unclear how.

She also intends to ensure life sentences are served and remove the possibility of reducing sentences. She’s opened the door to organizing a referendum on re-instating the death penalty.

Far Right French Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen Pre-Election Event
Le Pen speaks during a meeting in Perpignan, France, on April 7. Photographer: Louise Delmotte/Bloomberg

Immigration

► Despite efforts to soften her image, Le Pen is sticking to her hardline stance on immigration and French identity. She would put an already-drafted bill to a referendum to cut the numbers of people coming to live in France. The proposal includes a requirement that applications for residency and asylum can be made only outside the country.

Her “national priority” law would mean that housing and other social services are mostly given to French nationals. She would cut all non-economic immigration and ban family reunifications. Undocumented migrants would be systematically expelled.

Society

► While Le Pen has opened her party’s doors to homosexuals, she has refused to condemn a crackdown on the LGBTQ community in Hungary. Six years ago, she was against same-sex marriage — her campaign spokesman said that is no longer her position. Le Pen says she supports abortion, but opposes the time frame in which it is allowed to 14 weeks from 12 weeks.

Religion

► Le Pen defends a strict version of “laicite,” the French take on secularism that relegates religion to the private sphere. But her position is full of exceptions that appear contradictory. She wants to fine Muslim women for wearing the veil in public spaces in the name of “freedom,” calling it the symbol of an ideology, not a religion. But she hasn’t called for a ban on crosses in the same locales. BM

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