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Economy

Socialist presidential candidate Hollande spells out plan for first year in office

media Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

The Socialist candidate for France’s president has named his priorities for his first year in office if he is elected. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters judge the proposals “totally irresponsible”, while the hard left says they don’t go far enough.

Hollande’s list of 35 measures, revealed to journalists ahead of a public launch at a campaign rally in Rennes on Wednesday evening, contains no new promises but does indicate what parts of his programme he considers most urgent.

They have been whittled down from the 60 promises he announced in January and will start with a cut in the pay of the president and government ministers to set an example in time of crisis.

The rich will also be called upon to make sacrifices, with a new 75 per cent tax rate on incomes over one million euros. A law to that effect should be passed by September 2012, the plan says.

That, along with moves to stop tax dodges for the rich and restoring a wealth tax, would be part of Hollande’s effort to balance the state’s budget by 2017.

But there are to be handouts, too.

A grant to parents to pay for educational equipment for school students will rise 25 per cent and petrol prices will be frozen for three months.

New jobs will be created in education, the justice system and security.

Hollande says he will also make a priority of renegotiating the euro-crisis treaty and withdrawing French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an “unrealistic” idea according to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy who promised to bring them home by the end of 2013 after four French soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in January.

According to the timetable, the measures Hollande and his team judge most urgent will be carried out between 6 May and 29 June, a second phase will last from 3 July to 2 August and a third will be the work of the next 10 months.

The head of Sarkozy’s UMP party, Jean-François Copé was quick to slam the proposals as “totally irresponsible”, claiming that no savings are suggested and that the tax rise for the super-rich will bring no extra income for the state.

On Hollande’s left, Communist Party leader Marie-George Buffet called on him to “go further”, notably by restoring the right to retire at 60 for all, which was abolished by Sarkozy, and nationalising some banks.

Buffet and her party support Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose recent rise in the polls was further boosted by the public support of 60 leading trade union activists in a declaration published in the Communist Party paper l’Humanité.

Magistrates’ unions also felt that Hollande is being too timid. They called on him to promise to reverse a number of Sarkozy’s measures, including criminal proceedings for minors, and give more details of his proposal to increase the independence of the judiciary.

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