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French presidential election 2017: Who is Jean-Luc Melenchon? Pledges zero homelessness and Frexit

Jean-Luc Melenchon is the candidate of the Left Party and has branded his movement La France insoumise (Unsubmissive France), using the tone of similar citizen-based movements in Italy and Spain.

Melenchon joined the Socialist party in the 1970s, was a senator for years and served as a junior minister from 2000 to 2002. In 2008 he launched his own political movement named Left Pary. In 2012, he came in forth in the presidential vote with 11% of the votes.

In 2009 he was elected to the European Parliament, where he still serves.

His campaign launch for the French Presidential Election was considered the most imaginative, Melenchon appearing as a hologram at a rally in Paris while addressing a crowd in Lyon some 500km away.

ean luc melenchon presidential candidate
Photo:Facebook.com/JLMelenchon/

Backed by France’s Communist Party, the 65 year-old candidate says the means of production, trade and consumption must be changed, and cites climate change as one of his concerns.

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Melenchon calls for France to leave the European treaties and criticizes EU’s economic liberalism. The presidential candidate defends the idea of a “Sixth Republic” , which would replace the existing political system, abolish the “presidential monarchy” and give power back to the people.

Melenchon wants the age of voting to be reduced to 16 and wants the constituent assembly to acquire greater powers. He also pledges zero homelessness and full reimbursement for prescribed health care.

Similar to Benoit Hamon, Melenchon plans to recognize burn-out as an occupational disease.

Key points in the programme of Jean-Luc Melenchon

Among Jean-Luc Melenchon’s most important policies are a 100-billion-euro economic stimulus plan funded by government borrowing, corporate nationalisation in sectors such as the motorway network, devaluation of the euro currency, withdrawal from NATO and possible exit from the European Union, according to Reuters.

The left-winger also pledges a rewrite of the Constitution to end what he calls a “presidential monarchy” – shorthand for a radical change that would boost parliamentary power and voter control over a head of state who currently enjoys more power in his country than presidents in many other Western democracies, including the United States.

Here are his main proposals for the presidential election to be held on April 23 and May 7.

Spending policies

He says he would raise public spending by 275 billion euros over the five years from mid-2017 to mid-2022. That splits into 102 billion of debt-financed public investment and 173 billion of spending on wage rises and job creation, with the goal of cutting the jobless rate to 6 percent from 10 percent now.

– Of the 102 billion, 45 billion would be devoted to social projects, of which 18 billion would go on new housing construction alone. Another 50 billion would go to environmental projects, of which 25 billion would be for development of alternative energy sources such as sea-based wind-power generation. The remaining seven of the 102 billion would be invested in the public service.

– Of the 173 billion of other state expenditure, 22 billion would go to public sector pay increases, 33 billion to fighting poverty, 32 billion to covering the cost of the cut to 60 in the retirement age (from about 65), 24 billion to education and culture, with another 17 billion for youth policy.

Taxes

Melenchon’s economic team predicts additional state income of 180-190 billion euros, comprising the benefits of higher economic growth and inflation, a fall in unemployment, and tax reforms that will weigh heavily on the income and assets of the wealthiest.

Beyond the increased state revenues linked to his predicted economic growth rate of two percent a year in 2018 and onwards as well as waning unemployment, Melenchon says he will raise the state’s firepower by fighting tax evasion, scrapping costly tax credits for firms and reforming income and asset taxation to make the richest pay more.

He proposes moving income taxation from a system of five tax bands to a more progressive 14 bands, with any salary above 400,000 euros per year taxed at 90 percent. That, plus higher taxes on property deals and higher sales tax on luxury goods, is predicted to raise 31.5 billion euros a year.

Another 38 billion euros per year would be raised by ending a myriad of exceptions in income tax dues and 30 billion more by cracking down on tax fraud.

Another 21 billion would be saved by abandoning the tax credits that current president Francois Hollande introduced in the hope that beneficiary companies would recruit more staff.

Tax on small and medium sized companies would be reduced and the average corporate profit tax rate cut to 25 percent from 33 at present.

France’s position in EU

– pullout from the U.S.-dominated NATO military alliance and the International Monetary Fund

– veto of international free-trade accords

– end independence of European Central Bank and take control of Bank of France

– devalue the euro to the exchange rate at which it started versus the U.S. dollar – roughly 1 euro for 1.17 dollars

– ignore the euro zone “stability pact” on deficit and debt control

– renegotiate European Union rules to get rid of austerity and other laissez-faire policies as well as rules that allow companies, notably on building sites, hire staff on conditions of other EU countries that are lower than those of France.

– failure of renegotiation demands would trigger a “Plan B” proposal whereby France’s departure from the European Union would go to a referendum vote.

Environment and energy

– Close ageing Fessenheim nuclear power station and abandon major nuclear projects including the EDF power utility’s planned construction of the British Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.

– Invest in offshore wind power output as well as other alternatives to nuclear and carbon-generated power. Organise transition to an economy based on local produce and zero-carbon consumption.

Jobs and labour measures

– Melenchon predicts 3.5 million jobs will be created as a result of hefty public investment in environmental projects and support for public services, including hiring of 60,000 state-employed teachers as well as increases in police numbers.

– Strict application of legal 35-hour week, implying that all hours above that mark be systematically paid at 25-50 percent above the standard pay rate.

– Raise the national minimum wage by 16 percent to 1,326 euros ($1,409) net per month for 35 hours worked per week

– Six percentage point rise in public sector wage rate

Governance

– start work on rewrite of constitution to limit power of president, allowing for him to be dismissed by popular vote, lower the voting age to 16 from 18, abolish the Senate upper house of parliament and ban holding of multiple elected mandates.

– make referendum approval obligatory for any European treaty change.

Alexa Stewart