France’s left-wing presidential hopefuls unveil their platforms

Valls Peillon Programme

Valls Peillon Programme

Former prime minister Manuel Valls and Vincent Peillon, an MEP and former education minister, unveiled their respective presidential platforms Tuesday as they gear up to compete with five other left-wing contenders in France’s April-May elections.

The fellow Socialist Party politicians agreed on the need to revive the European Union, but diverged on the national budget and taxes.

Valls told supporters gathered in the French capital that he would keep France’s public deficit below 3 percent of economic output but would not seek to reduce it to zero, as he unveiled his election platform.

The former premier, who stepped down last month to launch his presidential bid, is ahead in opinion polls for the left-wing primaries scheduled later this month, which includes six other candidates.

He said he wanted the single currency bloc’s stability pact rules to be “smartly” applied and that he opposed Turkey’s joining the European Union.

He also pledged to merge French welfare benefits into a single “decent income” if he replaces President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace next year.

Valls also used the opportunity to lash out at right-wing presidential nominee François Fillon, also a former premier.

“The right wing’s programme is to punish French people, it is a machine that will divide our country in a way we haven’t seen in the past decades,” he said.

Clean energy shift

Peillon also unveiled his programme on Tuesday, describing it as “inscribed in the history of socialism and the left” and pleading for an overhaul of the EU.

He insisted on the need for an “offensive and assertive European strategy”, noting the regional bloc was “going through an unprecedented crisis”.

A European MP since 2014, Peillon said he wanted to “revive the Franco-German engine” and “build a new European deal”.

He said he would invest €1 trillion in a shift to clean energy and in digital strategy and telecommunications, as well as in research and innovation. He also wants to harmonise EU tax structures.

Peillon wants to “pause” EU enlargement so that the bloc can focus on its own problems. He said he wants to create a European border guard to deal with the migrant crisis but also seeks to establish a “humanitarian corridor, allowing Europe to receive refugees directly from the countries neighbouring Syria”.

Opinion polls indicate that none of the left-wing candidates in the presidential primary will make it to the second round of the election in May. They forecast that Fillon will face off against right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen, but predict an eventual win for Fillon.