Jean-Luc Melenchon policies: Who is he? What do his policies mean for EU?

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With the French presidential election fast approaching, candidates have been upping the ante in their respective campaigns and the fluctuating polls have been reflecting it. There are 12 candidates in the running, with the frontrunners representing all points of the political spectrum – spanning far-left to far-right.

Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron, who is running for a second term, is currently favoured to win, but as campaigns draw on and support for each ebbs and flows, candidates are closing gaps. The far-right’s Marine Le Pen is currently polling just three percent short of Mr Macron.

Placing third in the running is the far-left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon, polling at 17 percent.

This is the third consecutive time the populist has campaigned for presidency and this time, his campaign has gained rapid momentum over the past few months, exceeding his left-wing competitors by a considerable margin.

Advocating a campaign with a larger focus on economics and climate rather than immigration, his manifesto is drawing a lot of attention from the more liberal side of France, but who is this political veteran and what are his policies?

Who is Jean-Luc Melenchon?

Despite having a tendency to present himself as a political outsider, Mélenchon is among the most experienced of all the candidates.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, 70, is the leader of far-left party La France Insoumise, which is variously translated to France Unbowed or Unsubmissive France.

After starting his political career by joining the Socialist Party in 1976, he was successively elected as municipal councillor of Massy in 1983, then general councillor of Essonne in 1985.

He then entered the Senate, which is the upper house of the French parliament in 1986, holding the position as France’s youngest-ever senator at age 35.

He remained a senate until 2008 when he quit to form the Left Party, the democratic socialist party, with fellow socialist Martine Billard.

After joining a coalition with the Front Left, he first ran for president in 2012 where he came fourth, receiving 11.1 percent of the first-round vote.

He formed La France Insoumise in 2016, standing for president in France’s 2017 election but again, ranked fourth with 19.6 percent of the first-round vote.

This will be his third time running for president and after his campaign picked up considerable momentum, many have questioned his chances of making it to the second-round runoff.

What are Jean-Luc Melenchon’s policies?

It’s understandable why the far-left candidate has gained increasing support over the months amongst a number of strong promises. His manifesto includes lowering the age of retirement, hiking the minimum wage, and freezing food and fuel prices.

As a public denouncer of the free-market economy, Mr Melenchon advocates “state intervention in the economy” to spread wealth, guaranteeing what he calls a “dignified life for all workers”. He told a campaign rally in Paris he would heavily tax the wealthy.

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Mr Melenchon said: “The free market, as you see, is chaos. Another world is possible.”

If he takes office, Mr Melenchon hopes to pass a “social emergency law” as soon as possible, which would increase the minimum wage to €1,400 per month (from €1,269.03 at present) and cap salary differences between workers and CEOs at one to 20.

He pledged to enforce greater controls on the movement of capital, and guaranteed jobs for the long-term unemployed.

He also announced plans to give 800,000 public sector workers on temporary contracts a permanent tenure – as well as plans to prevent top companies listed on the French stock exchange from paying dividends.

He wants to lower the retirement age in France from 62 to 60, unlike Mr Macron who currently wants to raise it to 65 to “balance the pension bill”.

As a keen proponent of mass wealth redistribution, Mr Melenchon also wants to boost the capital gains tax up to the same level as income tax and introduce a progressive corporate tax, as well as seize inheritances greater than €12 million.

On immigration, Mr Melenchon holds a welcoming approach and outlines an easing of current policies.

He wants to “regularise all undocumented workers and facilitate access to French nationality for foreigners legally present on the territory.”

He said: “Once foreigners are here, I refuse to mistreat them, we must treat people humanely.”

What would his presidency mean for the EU?

As a party translated to Unsubmissive France, it should come as no surprise that conformity is something Mr Melenchon would be slightly opposed to.

On the European Union, Mr Melenchon has said he hopes to push member countries to break away from EU treaties “that block us” from “implementing measures necessary” in France, if he wins the election in April.

If the EU member states refuse to support this, Mr Melenchon said he would just disregard the EU rules that don’t align with his programme.

It is believed he wants the new EU texts to be “compatible with the climate and social emergencies”.

Mr Melenchon has also said he would withdraw France from NATO.

He said: “We need to leave NATO. I would first and foremost like to restore our military sovereignty.

“France, who has nuclear deterrent forces, should be independent and should not depend on the US in terms of arms production.”

The first round of the French presidential election will be held on April 10. If no candidates win a majority vote, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates on April 24.

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