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French left vows new taxes as snap election draws near

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French left vows new taxes as snap election draws near
A supporter, using a poster over his head against the rain, takes pictures during an open-air election campaign meeting of the electoral coalition of left-wing parties dubbed the New Popular Front in Montreuil on June 17, 2024. The parties have pledged to introduced new taxes on businesses and the rich if they win the election. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Left-wing parties in France on Friday pledged to raise 30 billion euros a year from taxing businesses and the rich if they win a majority at snap parliamentary polls, drawing ire from centrists and business leaders.

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The promises to fund new welfare handouts come as the left tries to catch the far-right National Rally (RN) in the polls -- both of them well ahead of President Emmanuel Macron's camp.

Socialists, Greens, Communists and hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) would aim to bring in 30 billion euros from a wealth tax and a levy on windfall profits if their New Popular Front (NPF) alliances took power.

They plan to spend the cash on reversing Macron's hugely unpopular increase to the official retirement age as well as boosting housing and unemployment benefit payments and public sector salaries.

"There is a delicate balance between reducing inequality and maintaining strong economic growth," Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist of the IMF, posted to Twitter.

"The NPF program simply ignores this balance, and can only... lead to an economic catastrophe."

READ ALSO: French election breakdown: TV debates, polling latest and anti-Semitism

But he also dubbed the RN's economic plan a "Christmas tree without logic or coherence".

Since a European poll drubbing prompted Macron to call the snap election, yields on France's debt have soared -- a sign of weakening confidence as investors react to lavish spending plans from both the left and the RN.

Public finances are already under strain. There is an outstanding debt pile of around 110 percent of GDP -- over three trillion euros -- and an enduring government deficit that on Wednesday earned it a rebuke from the European Commission.

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Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said the left's plans were "a shredder for the middle class" on a visit to Marseille Friday.

The NPF says its plans will not affect those earning less than 4,000 euros per month.

'Electioneering anti-Semitism' 

Attal and other ministers have hammered their message that they are the sole bulwark against two "extremes" on left and right.

"Today there are three blocs, two of them extremes who feed off each other, because they are fuelled by divisions between French people," Attal said.

The RN's core messages revolve around opposition to Islam and immigration. Its manifesto pledges to "stop the migrant flood".

But allegations of anti-Semitism have resounded loudest this week, intensified after the rape of a 12-year-old girl allegedly by two teenagers motivated by hatred of Jews.

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Some figures in LFI, the largest party in the left alliance, have been accused of anti-Semitism over their reactions to Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza.

READ ALSO: French elections: What Macron plans to do if his party wins a majority

LFI's candidate in Avignon was not "able to say that Hamas is a terrorist organisation", Attal said on a visit to the southern French city later Friday.

In an op-ed for Le Monde daily, lawyer Arie Alimi and historian Vincent Lemire contrasted "contextual, populist and electioneering anti-Semitism used by some members of LFI" with "the founding, historical and essential anti-Semitism of the RN," which was co-founded by a former Waffen-SS member.

Nevertheless, they added, "the NPF is the only electorally credible alternative to avoid an openly xenophobic party taking control of our institutions".

The left alliance's electoral programme includes a condemnation of Hamas's attack on Israel and a plan to address racism and anti-Semitism.

Rush for proxy votes

As voters rush to prepare for the June 30 and July 7 polls, over a million have already registered to vote by proxy in the election, which falls at the start of the summer holiday period.

The number stood at over 1,055,000 by June 20, the interior ministry said. That already outstrips the numbers for the June 2022 parliamentary election, when people had more notice and were more likely to be at home.

An Ifop poll suggested that 64 percent of eligible voters were likely to turn out, up 15 points on 2022.

Surveys suggest the RN could win up to 35 percent in the first round, compared with up to 29 percent for the left and around 20 for Macron's centrists.

Some eyes are already on the Paris Olympic Games starting in late July, which Macron has not shied away from using to call on voters to choose stability.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Friday he would not continue in his post to oversee security at the Games if Macron's camp lost the election, "even for just a few extra weeks".

Nevertheless, "the Olympic Games have been well prepared for, everyone knows and appreciates that", he added.

 

 

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