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France to hold second round of disrupted municipal elections in June

France will hold on June 28th the second round of municipal elections that were called off in March after the country locked down to curtail the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday.

France to hold second round of disrupted municipal elections in June
Photo: AFP

Philippe said the government's scientific advisory panel had estimated that sufficient safeguards could be taken to mitigate contagion risks for the nearly 5,000 cities and towns set to vote.

The municipal elections decide on local officials from village mayors to more high profile jobs like the Mayor of Paris.

READ ALSO What you need to know about France's municipal elections

 

Like presidential elections, municipal elections in France have a two-step voting process. The first round of voting took place on Sunday, March 15th but just two days later the country locked down and the second round – set for March 22nd – was scrapped.

“After weighing the pros and cons, we believe that our democratic life must resume,” Philippe said at  a press conference in Paris.

But he said the government would call off the vote again if health advisors warned that a new flare-up of COVID-19 cases made calling people to the polls too risky.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, also at the press conference, said the roughly 16 million voters in the second round, including residents of Paris, Lyon and other large cities, would have to wear masks.

The first round of voting produced an outright winner in many of France's smaller communes but around 5,000 places – mostly the larger towns and cities – will move to a second round of voting to determine who is elected.

The government drew heavy criticism after going ahead with the first round of voting just one day after ordering all bar, restaurants, cinemas and other non-essential businesses to close in the coronavirus fight.

The lockdown prompted many voters to stay home, with the abstention rate hitting a French record of 55 percent.

In Paris the incumbent Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo is attempting to hold on to her seat, while across the rest of the country president Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche party had been predicted to face heavy losses.

READ ALSO  The (very complicated) rules for electing the mayor of Paris

 

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POLITICS

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What’s in France’s 2023 budget?

France's finance minister has unveiled the government's financial plans for the next year, and says that his overall aim is to 'protect' households in France from inflation and rises in the cost of living - here's what he announced.

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What's in France's 2023 budget?

The 2023 Budget was formally presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, before economy minister Bruno Le Maire announced the main details to the press. 

The budget must now be debated in parliament, and more details on certain packages will be revealed in the coming days, but here is the overview;

Inflation – two of the biggest measures to protect households from the rising cost of living had already been announced – gas and electricity prices will remain capped in 2023, albeit at the higher rate of 15 percent, while low-income households will get a €100-200 grant. The energy price cap is expected to cost the government €45 billion in 2023.

EXPLAINED: What your French energy bills will look like in 2023

Property renovations – the MaPrimeRenov scheme, which gives grants to householders for works that make their homes more energy-efficient, will be extended again into 2023, with a budget of €2.5 billion to distribute.

Income tax – the income tax scale will be indexed to inflation in 2023, so that workers who get a pay increase to cope with the rising cost of living don’t find themselves paying more income tax. “Disposable income after tax will remain the same for all households even if their salary increases,” reads the 2023 Budget.

Pay rises –  pay will increase for teachers, judges and other civil servants as inflation is forecast to reach 4.3 percent next year after 5.4 percent in 2022. Around €140 million is assigned to increase the salaries of non-teaching staff in schools. 

New jobs – nearly 11,000 more public employees will be hired, in a stark reversal of President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign promise to slash 120,000 public-sector jobs – 2,000 of these jobs will be in teaching. 

Small business help – firms with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2 million will also benefit from the 15 percent price cap on energy bills in 2023. The finance ministry will put in place a simplified process for small businesses to claim this aid. In total €3 billion is available to help small businesses that are suffering because of rising costs. 

Refugees – In the context of the war in Ukraine, the government plans to finance 5,900 accommodation places for refugees and asylum seekers in various reception and emergency accommodation centres. The budget provides for a 6 percent increase in the “immigration, asylum and integration” budget.

Cigarettes – prime minister Elisabeth Borne had already announced that the price of cigarettes will rise “in line with inflation”.

Ministries – Le Maire also announced the budget allocation for the various ministries. The Labour ministry is the big winner with an increase of 42.8 percent compared to last year, coupled with the goal to reach full employment by 2027. Education gets an increase of €60.2 billion (or 6.5 percent more than in 2022), much of which will go on increasing teachers’ salaries, while the justice and environment ministries will also see increased budgets.

Conversely, there was a fall in spending for the finance ministry itself.

Borrowing –  the government will borrow a record €270 billion next year in order to finance the budget. “This is not a restrictive budget, nor an easy one – it’s a responsible and protective budget at a time of great uncertainties,” said Le Maire. 

The government is tabling on growth of one percent, a forecast Le Maire defended as “credible and pro-active” despite an estimate of just 0.5 percent GDP growth by the Bank of France, and 0.6 percent from economists at the OECD.

The public deficit is expected to reach five percent of GDP, as the EU has suspended the rules limiting deficit spending to three percent of GDP because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Parliament

The budget plans now need to be debated in parliament where they are likely to face fierce opposition. Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party and its allies lost their majority in elections earlier this year.

Macron also plans to push ahead with a pension reform that would gradually start pushing up the official retirement age from 62 currently, setting up a standoff with unions and left-wing opposition parties.

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