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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Le Pen pledges to fine Muslim women who wear headscarves in public

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has vowed to issue fines to Muslim women who wear headscarves in public, should she be elected as the next president of France.

Le Pen pledges to fine Muslim women who wear headscarves in public
Muslim women would be fined for wearing headscarves under a Le Pen presidency. Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

President Emmanuel Macron built what seemed an unassailable lead ahead of the first round of polls on Sunday but Le Pen has eroded the margin and feels she has a real chance of winning the run-off on April 24th.

With France’s traditional right- and left-wing parties facing electoral disaster, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is on course to come third and he still believes he can sneak into a run-off.

Speaking to RTL radio, Le Pen explained how her pledge to ban the headscarf in all public spaces would be implemented, saying it would be enforced by police in the same way as seatbelt-wearing in cars.

“People will be given a fine in the same way that it is illegal to not wear your seat belt. It seems to me that the police are very much able to enforce this measure,” she said.

Le Pen has said she will use referendums to try to avoid constitutional challenges to many of her proposed laws on the basis that they are discriminatory and an infringement on personal freedoms.

Previous legislation in France banning obvious religious symbols in schools or full-face coverings in public was allowed on the basis that it applied to all citizens and in specific settings.

The hijab, or Muslim headscarf, is currently banned in government buildings such as mairies and schools, and it is also forbidden for state employees such as police officers to wear it. The same rule applies to all overt religious symbols.

Wearing the hijab in other public spaces is completely legal, although the face-covering niqab is not permitted in any public space.

Attempts by local mayors to ban religious items of clothing such as the ‘burkini’ swimsuit on beaches have been overturned by French courts.

Le Pen, 53, has toned down her anti-immigration rhetoric during campaigning this year and has focused instead on household spending, putting her closer than ever to power, polls indicate.

The latest surveys suggest she is within striking distance of centrist Macron if the two of them come top in the first round of voting on Sunday.

A second round run-off is scheduled for April 24th, with an average of polls indicating Macron has a slight lead of 54 percent versus 46 percent for Le Pen.

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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