So, what do the French presidential candidates plan to do if elected?

The five main contenders in France's presidential election span the ideological spectrum from hard left to far right. A week before the first round of voting, here are their main proposals:

So, what do the French presidential candidates plan to do if elected?
Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macton, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Benoit Hamon. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Marine Le Pen: France first

– Negotiate France's exit from the eurozone and return to the franc.

Immediately suspend membership of the European passport-free Schengen area and restore border controls. Hold a “Frexit” referendum after six months of negotiations with Brussels on transforming the union into a club of nation states.

– Reduce legal immigration to 10,000 people per year, require refugees seeking asylum in France to apply in their home region, hold a referendum on reforms including introducing a French-first policy on jobs and housing

– Impose a 35-per-cent tax on products from companies that offshore factory jobs

– Lower the minimum retirement age from 62 to 60 and expand family subsidies.

– Pull France out of NATO's central command and develop closer relations with Russia.

Emmanuel Macron: Economic 'liberation'

– Cut the corporation tax rate from 33 percent to 25 percent and give bosses more flexibility to negotiate working time with staff at the company level.

– Give all workers, including the self-employed, access to unemployment benefits.

– Accelerate integration in the eurozone by giving it a central parliament, finance minister and budget. Organise democratic conventions in all EU member states to discuss reforming the bloc.

– Create tax incentives to encourage companies to hire jobseekers from underprivileged neighbourhoods

– Introduce one month's obligatory military service for all 18-21-year-olds.

Francois Fillon: Shrinking the state

– Cut 500,000 public servant jobs and reduce public spending by 100 billion euros ($106 billion) over five years to reduce France's debt.

– Scrap the official 35-hour working week. Progressively raise the working week for civil servants to 39. Allow companies to negotiate working time directly with employees. In the absence of an accord, apply a 39-hour rule.

– Ban the full-body Islamic burkini swimsuit and introduce uniforms in public schools.

– Reduce immigration by setting annual quotas.

– Work with Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime in combating the Islamic State.

Jean-Luc Melenchon: Big spender

– Renegotiate EU treaties. Get the union to scrap rules on fiscal discipline and allow the European Central Bank to buy up debt from member states. If talks fail hold a referendum on withdrawing from the treaties, leading to possible exit from the euro.

– Move from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. Give citizens more powers to propose referenda and recall lawmakers.

– Tax all annual earnings above 400,000 euros at 100 percent and increase public spending by 173 billion euros ($184 billion) over five years.

– End France's use of nuclear power and fossil fuels. Boost renewables, which would supply 100 percent of the country's needs by 2050.

– Foreign policy: Withdraw from NATO. Improve relations with Russia “to avoid war.” Curry ties with the leftist Latin American ALBA grouping founded by late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Benoit Hamon: Income for all

– Introduce a universal basic income, initially targeting the working poor but eventually extended to all citizens, reaching 750 euros a month. Estimated cost of first phase: 35 billion euros a year.

– Move towards a shorter working week by encouraging companies to allow more part-time work and sabbaticals. Tax robots that take human jobs.

– Increase company payroll taxes

– Increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 50 percent by 2025. Ban harmful pesticides.

– Legalise cannabis.

By Valerie Dekimpe and Clare Byrne


Burkina junta chief denies diplomatic split from France

Burkina Faso's junta leader said on Friday his country had not severed diplomatic ties with France, which he has asked to withdraw its forces, and denied Russian Wagner mercenaries were in the country.

Burkina junta chief denies diplomatic split from France

Former colonial power France had special forces based in the capital Ouagadougou, but its presence had come under intense scrutiny as anti-French sentiment in the region grows, with Paris withdrawing its ambassador to Burkina over the junta’s demands.

“The end of diplomatic agreements, no!” Captain Ibrahim Traore said in a television interview with Burkinabe journalists. “There is no break in diplomatic relations or hatred against a particular state.”

Traore went on to deny that there were mercenaries from the Wagner Group deployed in Burkina Faso, even as the junta has nurtured ties with Moscow.

Wagner, an infamous Russian mercenary group founded in 2014, has been involved in conflicts in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Ukraine.

“We’ve heard everywhere that Wagner is in Ouagadougou,” he said, adding that it was a rumour “created so that everybody would distance themselves from us”.

“We have our Wagner, it is the VDP that we recruit,” he said, referring to the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland civilian auxiliaries. “They are our Wagner.”

He said that “all the people want is their sovereignty, to live with dignity. It doesn’t mean leaving one country for another.”

Paris confirmed last month that its special forces troops, deployed to help fight a years-long jihadist insurgency, would leave within a month.

Bloody conflict

A landlocked country in the heart of West Africa’s Sahel, Burkina Faso is one of the world’s most volatile and impoverished countries.

It has been struggling with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015. Thousands of civilians, troops and police have been killed, more than two million people have fled their homes, and around 40 percent of the country lies outside the government’s control.

Anger within the military at the mounting toll sparked two coups in 2022, the most recent of which was in September, when 34-year-old Traore seized power.

He is standing by a pledge made by the preceding junta to stage elections for a civilian government by 2024.

After the ruling junta in Mali forced French troops out last year, the army officers running neighbouring Burkina Faso followed suit, asking Paris to empty its garrison.

Under President Emmanuel Macron, France was already drawing down its troops across the Sahel region, which just a few years ago numbered more than 5,000, backed up with fighter jets, helicopters and infantry fighting vehicles.

About 3,000 remain, but the forced departures from Mali and Burkina Faso — as well as the Central African Republic to the south last year — underline how anti-French winds are gathering force.