French left vows new taxes as snap election draws near


(MENAFN- 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.

The promises to fund new welfare handouts come as the left tries to catch up to the lead of 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 "immediately reinstate a wealth tax with a climate component" to bring in "15 billion euros" ($16 billion) if they enter government, Socialist senator Alexandre Ouizille told journalists in Paris.

A tax on businesses' windfall profits would bring in a further 15 billion euros, the New Popular Front (NPF) alliance predicts.

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

Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist of the IMF, called the NPF's plans "essentially confiscatory in nature," in a message on Twitter.

"It is hard to see how this will not lead entrepreneurs to move en masse their operations elsewhere," he added.

In a sign of weakening confidence, yields on France's debt have soared since the president called the snap election after a European poll drubbing, as investors react to lavish spending plans from both the left and the RN.

France's public finances are already under strain, with 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.

Bond markets are showing "the direct consequences of totally senseless and irresponsible economic and financial plans" from both left and far right, Macron's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

He vowed to bring France's deficit back to the notional EU limit of three percent by 2027, from over five percent this year.

The RN has for its part vowed to face down Brussels over the party's plans to reduce VAT on fuel -- forbidden under EU rules aimed at limiting greenhouse emissions.

- 'Electioneering anti-Semitism' -

Ministers led by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal 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, by stigmatising some French people," Attal said in Marseille on Friday.

The RN's core messages revolve around opposition to Islam and immigration, with its manifesto pledging 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 by two teenagers allegedly motivated by hatred of Jews.

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.

"There is no equivalence between the contextual, populist and electioneering anti-Semitism used by some members of LFI and the founding, historical and essential anti-Semitism of the RN," which was co-founded by a former Waffen-SS member, lawyer Arie Alimi and historian Vincent Lemire wrote in an op-ed for Le Monde daily.

While "it cannot be contested that there is a resurgence in anti-Semitism from the left," they insisted that "the NPF is the only electorally credible alternative to avoid an openly xenophobic party taking control of our institutions."

The left'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 falling at the start of the summer holiday period.

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

Some eyes were also 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 that he would not continue in his post to oversee security at the Games if Macron's camp loses 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.

burs-tgb/as/rlp

MENAFN21062024000143011026ID1108357554


AFP

Legal Disclaimer:
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.