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Macron details reelection plan amid criticism of his refusal to debate

The president spoke on everything from pensions to defence, cyberbullying to elderly care homes, as he faces growing condemnation for his refusal to debate with other candidates

A photo of President Emmanuel Macron in a black suit, with a blue background

Mr Macron presented more details on his election campaign promises this week, amid growing criticism at his refusal to debate candidates during the first round Pic: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

President Macron has revealed details on his plans for reelection three weeks ahead of the first round (April 10), with reforms proposed for everything from retirement and pensions to defence.

Mr Macron detailed the plans at a conference in the Docks de Paris, in Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis), yesterday (Thursday, March 17).

It comes two weeks after Mr Macron addressed a “letter to the French people” in which he officially declared his candidature in the upcoming elections.

Read more: Continuity key theme as Macron finally declares candidacy in letter 

He said that the project would seek to combat “the crises that we have been through together during these five years [including] social movements, pandemics, terrorism, and the return of war to Europe”.

Retirement age change

  • Official retirement age would be put back to 65, because “in a society where we live longer, it makes sense that we work more”
  • Change set to help fund the current pensions deficit and to “take longer careers into account”
  • Pensions of a minimum of €1,100 per month for everyone
  • Simplification of employment and retirement income support

Medical prescription expansion

  • “Massive improvement” of access to care in current “medical deserts”
  • Enabling pharmacists and nurses to issue repeat prescriptions to “free up doctor time”
  • Establishing a single national number to book a medical appointment for the following 48 hours 

Elderly care home recruitment

  • Wider control of elderly care homes (Ehpads), especially in light of the recent Orpéa scandal
  • Recruitment of 50,000 more nurses and care assistance

“We must strengthen controls against inhumane and degrading practices,” Mr Macron said.

Read more: Inquiries open after claims of food rationing at care homes in France 

Inheritance reform

  • Inheritance tax reform, with the [tax free] allowance [for direct line inheritance] increased from €100,000 to €150,000
  • A process that takes modern family dynamics into account, including the creation of an “allowance for indirect lines, such as for nephews, nieces, grandchildren and children of spouses".

Citizens’ debate on end-of-life law

  • Proposal to “move forward in a peaceful manner…on the sensitive topic” of end of life care

In response to a question from a journalist, Mr Macron said: “I think that this is a good subject for a citizens' convention, and so I will submit it to citizens’ debates. 

“On the basis of the conclusions of these, I will submit to the national representation or to the people, the choice for a recommended end-of-life path.”

Defence investment

  • Armed forces investment in “cutting-edge technology”
  • Civilian reservist numbers to double to “strengthen civilian capabilities”
  • Wider rollout of universal national service

Unemployment changes

  • Aiming for “full employment within five years”
  • Bid to change current unemployment agency Pôle emploi into a new “France Travail”
  • Reforms to “pool all the know-how and skills” of the country nationally

Jobseeker reform

  • Reform of RSA income benefit to require the “devotion of 15-20 hours per week to an activity intended to help employment search, such as training, work, or added support” (currently does not always require any active work while receiving the payment)
  • RSA to be seen as not only “a benefit, but also support” towards employment
  • A “subsistence income for everyone” and “support for every person…to do their share of work for all those who can”, said Mr Macron.

Read more: RSA: What is France’s back-to-work social benefit and who is eligible?

Media and information

  • Establishment of a “general assembly for the right to information”
  • Moves to preserve freedom of information and journalistic freedom
  • More public culture commissions
  • Abolishment of the TV licence fee and reform of public broadcasting funding structure

Read more: End of TV licence fee, food cheques: Macron's promises if re-elected 

Teachers and schools

  • A “new pact for teachers” including a significant increase in the number of teachers
  • A policy to improve “closeness” between families and schools
  • More mathematics taught in schools
  • At least 30 minutes of sport a day
  • Disabled students to get more hours with assistants, with assistants now required to work 35 hours per week

Bullying and protection of young people

  • Plan to “step up the fight against bullying” in schools and online
  • Bans on screens and access to networks where bullying can easily happen within schools 
  • More regulation of social media platforms, because “I know of no [other] freedom where there is also no public order and protection of the most vulnerable”.

Mr Macron said: “The suffering of our children and teenagers in the face of the harassment they are subjected to at school and on social networks and messaging, is a phenomenon that has completely exploded in recent years and we must respond.”

Social pay reform

  • Plan to pay “solidarity and benefits at the source”
  • A plan which would positively impact “20 million people in France” who receive benefits
  • Proposed simplification of aid that will also fight against fraud

Asylum reform

  • Faster ejection for people whose asylum claims are rejected
  • Fewer and “less cumbersome” removal procedures to simplify the process 
  • Reform to methods of access to residence permits, and a French test required for long-term permits

Election and representation reform

  • Proposal to launch “a transparent commission” to reform “our institutions”

Mr Macron said: “I am personally in favour of more proportional representation." 

Gendarmerie and legal recruitment

  • Creation of 200 extra gendarmerie brigades
  • Reduction of delays in the justice system
  • Better working conditions for justice professionals, including hiring of 8,500 extra magistrates and legal personnel

This comes as French police launch recruitment of 30,000 reserve officers.

A €50billion plan

Mr Macron said he estimated his plan to cost €50 billion per year, and tax cuts at €15 billion. In terms of figures, the president-candidate said he wants to invest €25 billion per year over 10 years into scientific research.

Lack of debate criticised

However, opponents have criticised the president for not engaging in debates with other candidates. 

On Twitter, a hashtag reading #PasDeDébatPasDeMandat (No Debate, No Mandate) has gone viral after an open letter to that effect was published by Libération on March 15.

Candidates and supporters from across the political spectrum - from the far left to far right - have used the hashtag, and pushed for debate.

The open letter was signed by a number of high-profile figures, including actor Adèle Haenel, writer Laurent Binet, philosopher Frédéric Lordon, feminist activist Caroline De Haas, and the author Alice Zeniter.

It was highly critical of the president’s past five years, stating: "The reality after five years of Macronism is that hospitals are in ruins, justice is in ruins, schools are in ruins, civil liberties are in ruins, the great cause of feminism is a joke. 

“'Make Our Planet Great Again' is a huge joke - but the police are all-powerful and digital surveillance is reaching Orwellian milestones.”

It continued: "Emmanuel Macron is so happy with it that he intends to extend and worsen it all. Understandably, in his mind, there is no point in discussing it since on the menu there is only more of the same."

Other candidates have picked up on the hashtag, including far-right Eric Zemmour, who tweeted an image of Mr Macron in casual clothes, and wrote: “Emmanuel Macron wants us to believe that he no longer has time to shave, dress or comb his hair. He wants us to feel sorry for him. 

“Meanwhile, the French are working and suffering.”

Yet, Mr Macron has said this is not because he does not want to debate per se, but because the sitting president does not historically engage in debates with other candidates during the first round of an election campaign.

At a public event on March 7 in Yvelines, he said: “No incumbent president who has run for re-election has done so. I don't see why I would do it differently. 

“I don’t shy away from debate, but rather than going to rallies where people applaud you because they are already convinced, I would prefer to debate with the French people. I owe them that.”

Related articles

'When I am president': The key policies of final 12 French candidates 

Which French election candidate does your mayor support? How to check

Signatures, power transfer: key dates for French presidential election

Macron warned for using main Twitter account to promote election bid

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