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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

EXPLAINED: What are the key policy differences between Macron and Le Pen?

French voters must now decide between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to be the next president of France. Here's where they stand on key issues.

EXPLAINED: What are the key policy differences between Macron and Le Pen?
Folded election leaflets show the faces of French President Emmanuel Macron and his second-round opponent, Marine Le Pen. We take a look at the differences between the two. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

The Economy

Macron has promised to cut taxes for self-employed people for industrial and agricultural production. He said he will remove all tax on inheritance valued at less than €150,000. 

He has also pledged to restrict access to certain welfare payments.

Unemployment in France is at its lowest level since 2008 and Macron has set an objective of reaching full-employment in his second term. 

He wants to invest €30 billion into high-tech industries, continue to support the ‘French Tech‘ sector, develop 100-percent French supply chains in renewable technologies and continue to position France as one of the EU’s prime countries for foreign direct investment. 

READ MORE How well is the French economy really doing?

Le Pen would like to renegotiate free trade deals, create a sovereign wealth fund and subsidise French businesses to give them a competitive edge on the global market. 

She also wants to reduce taxes on young French people to incentivise them to stay in the country; give greater financial support for single mothers; get rid of inheritance tax for poorer families; cut VAT on petrol, gas and electricity; and impose a new wealth tax on the financial sector. 

She wants to restrict welfare payments to people who are not French citizens and reduce France’s deficit – not through austerity measures, but rather by investing more money into the economy and vague plans for industrialisation. 

Most economists say that her plans do not add up.

Foreign policy and defence 

Macron is a devout believer in the European Union project and would like to see the bloc become more integrated – and more autonomous on the global stage, by investing in defence. 

READ MORE How powerful is the French military?

Le Pen would like to reform the EU to make it more of an assembly of sovereign nations, rather than a supranational body. Unlike Macron, she would like to withdraw from NATO. 

Le Pen’s promise of ‘France-first’ policy that would favour French people ahead of foreigners, including EU nationals, would challenge the foundations of the European Union.

Both candidates are seeking to invest heavily in French defence spending. 

Ukraine 

Macron’s belief in the importance of a strong European Union has only been strengthened by the invasion of Ukraine.

He has taken a tough stance on Russia and was a key figure in pushing for EU sanctions. He has played a prominent role in attempting to mediate the conflict, speaking regularly to Russian premier Vladimir Putin at the request of Ukrainian leader Volodmyr Zelensky. 

Macron’s Government has unveiled a package of measures to insulate the French economy from the war, including ending dependency on Russian oil and gas by 2027. 

READ MORE France’s Macron targets Le Pen over ties to Russia

Le Pen has accused Putin of war crimes in Ukraine, but was once close to the Russian leader, even including a photo of him in her campaign leaflets, which were hastily withdrawn after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the past, her political party, now known as the Rassemblement National, has borrowed tens of millions of euros from Russian banks – loans it is still paying off today. 

She has previously argued that “there was no Russian invasion of Crimea”, referring to the 2014 annexation of the region, and has said that Putin could once again become an ally of France and that she saw him as a useful partner in the fight against “Islamist fundamentalism”.

Immigration 

Macron has drifted to the right on immigration since winning the 2017 election. 

He would like to reform the Schengen zone to make it harder for immigrants to enter Europe, expand France’s border force and expel foreigners who “disturb the public order” – without giving detail on what would qualify as such a disturbance. 

Le Pen’s flagship policy is to “stop uncontrolled immigration”. 

She wants to end all non-economic immigration and treat asylum requests overseas rather than in France.

Policy towards foreigners already in France

Macron has said that permanent/long-term residency cards (10 years) would only be given to those who have passed a French exam and have a job. Currently, there is no language test required to obtain residency rights in France – these tests are only required for acquiring citizenship. 

He also wants to reform the asylum process to “expel more efficiently” those who do not qualify for refugee status. 

Le Pen wants to cut off all welfare payments to those without French citizenship; take away visas/residency cards of all foreigners who have been out of work for one year; get rid of jus soli (the right to citizenship through birth in France); and give French people priority in social housing and employment ahead of foreigners including those from the EU.

The Environment

Macron has long touted himself as an environmental defender. If reelected, he has promised to increase the country’s solar energy supply by a factor of ten; invest in green technology development – notably ‘green hydrogen’; continue to energy-saving renovation of French housing; plant 140 million trees by the end of the decade; and build 50 off-shore wind farms. 

READ MORE How committed is France to tackling environmental issues?

Le Pen has promised to make ecology one of the “levers of national renewal” but is thin on detail. 

She has however pledged to give €5 billion to French households by taking away subsidies used to build and maintain wind farms. She has also promised to progressively dismantle existing wind farm sites. 

Both Macron and Le Pen are committed to developing France’s nuclear energy sector. 

Security 

Macron promises to create 10,000 more police and gendarme jobs, doubling the presence of law enforcement officers in the street and on public transport. 

He has pledged to continue closing down “radical mosques”, triple the fine for street harassment and push delinquent youths towards some kind of military training. 

Le Pen has promised to make security a priority should she win the election, vowing to introduce tougher sentencing, reintroduce minimum sentences, better protect policemen under the notion of ‘legitimate defence’ and expand the country’s prison capacity. 

She says she intends to make it a crime for Muslim women to wear the hijab, or headscarf, in public, punishable by a fine. 

Retirement

Macron has made reforming the French pension system a priority, leading to widespread protests during his first term. 

He would like to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 for most workers, bringing France in line with many other EU countries. He said that he would ensure that pensioners receive payments of at least €1,100 per month. 

Le Pen has said that she would like to lower the age of retirement to 60 for those that have been working since before they were 20. She would like to ensure that pensioners receive a minimum monthly payment of €1,000. 

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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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