French presidential candidates look to working class for votes

Unlike Le Pen, Zemmour is not faring so well with working close voters, as the IFOP poll points to only 9% of voters in that category being in his favour. EPA-EFE/VICTOR LERENA [EPA-EFE/VICTOR LERENA]

Three French presidential candidates carried out a large seduction operation over the weekend aimed at the working-class, the largest in numbers but least mobilised at the ballot box. EURACTIV France reports.

On Saturday (5 February), the two far-right candidates, Rassemblement National’s Marine Le Pen and Reconquete’s Éric Zemmour, held rallies Reims and Lille, respectively.

Fabien Roussel, the presidential candidate for the French Communist Party, held his rally on Sunday (6 February) in Marseille – one of the strongholds of his competitors from radical-left party La France Insoumise.

Le Pen consolidates her base

The biggest challenge for Le Pen, whom 29% of working-class voters support according to an IFOP poll of 3 February, is to consolidate her base, the far-right leader said in Reims.

Thus, along with the topics of immigration and identity, her speech featured a range of measures designed to “give money back to the French”.

In addition to reducing taxes on fuel and gas, the candidate also promised the implementation of aid for single-parent families and a minimum monthly pension of €1,000. She also proposed revaluating teachers’ salaries and the disabled adults’ allowance, which benefits 1.2 million people.

To get even closer to the citizens and to show her concern for the “France of the forgotten “, Le Pen also launched the “5,000 markets operation”  during which Le Pen, her spokespersons and party activists will travel across France to meet with the people.

With voting intentions on the decline, the far-right leader is trying to remobilise her troops, who did not show during the regional elections of 2021 in particular.

Her goal is also to get back into a position where she can again face ‘not-yet-candidate’ President Emmanuel Macron, whom she says is responsible for having created “a polytraumatised France” and “a machine that crushes hopes under the pretext of progressivism”.

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Zemmour in search of legitimacy

Éric Zemmour, who held a rally in Lille, also focused on purchasing power in his speech.

The candidate who wishes to “reward work” in a more liberal spirit than his far-right competitor focused his proposals on businesses.

Once elected, Zemmour said he wishes to restore “the de-fiscalisation of overtime [work]” and the creation of a “zero charges bonus”, the aim of which is to grant employees “a thirteenth, fourteenth or even fifteenth month without charge for the employee or the employer, which will reward merit”.

Zemmour, who considers the welfare system to be “an insult”, prefers to “stop wasting public money” on foreigners but proposes a €10,000 “birth grant” where families would receive money for every “French child” born in a rural commune.

The former polemicist also promised to finance his proposals by putting an end to the funding of immigrants, which he called “our own replacement”, and to “social aid to foreigners”.

With this, Zemmour is attempting to show his concerns are close to those of France’s most modest in the hope of gaining votes from a huge part of the electorate.

Unlike Le Pen, Zemmour is not faring so well with working close voters, however, as the IFOP poll points to only 9% of them favouring him.

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The ‘roussellement theory’

Fabien Roussel, candidate for the Communist Party in the French presidential elections, also focused on the working class during the big rally in Marseille.

Echoing the “trickle-down theory” once advocated by Macron, the communist proposed the “Roussellement theory” consisting of “increasing salaries and pensions” because “what is expensive is the rich!”

To involve them in the efforts needed to support the purchasing power of the French, Roussel pledges not only to reinstate the wealth tax – which the government has replaced by a tax on real estate wealth – but to triple it.

He added that the fight against tax fraud would also provide additional room for manoeuvres to help increase the minimum wage known as SMIC to a net sum of €1,500 or the free driving licence for the under 25s.

Businesses should also be supported by lowering “the real costs that weigh on them: the cost of electricity, gas, insurance, bank interest, the cost of capital,” the candidate added.

Roussel, who also wants to see a “France of purchasing power”, also wants to put a stop to companies relocating outside of France and favour a French and low-carbon industry to counter the destruction of industrial jobs and thus recreate employment for the working classes.

Still very low in the polls with about 3%, Roussel’s wish is to renew a broken link between the left and the most modest electorate – which at the moment massively looks towards Le Pen – but also to “create the surprise” in 2022, hoping to federate beyond his own camp.

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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