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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
French election: Where they stand
BBC News Online examines where the frontrunners stand on the major election issues in the race to be French president.

Law and order

Known as "l'insecurite", crime is a key concern of French voters, with figures released in January showing a leap in crime statistics of nearly 8%.

Mr Chirac pushes for zero tolerance and a special council and ministry to fight crime.

Mr Le Pen also recommends zero tolerance and a referendum on the death penalty (abolished in 1981), the construction of more prisons - to create 200,000 places - and youth detention centres.

Immigration

Mr Le Pen wants the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants, to restrict the right to seek asylum, re-instate border control and establish what he calls "national preference" in all areas including housing, unemployment and social security in general.

Mr Chirac does not have any specific proposals on immigration.

Unemployment

France's persistent problem of unemployment has been rising over the last few months and currently stands at 9%, with about 2.5 million people out of work.

Mr Chirac aims to create 460,000 jobs by cutting social charges, and wants to tackle unemployment among the under-25s.

Mr Le Pen says each French person should be given a job, via small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in preference to foreigners.

Taxes

Mr Chirac has promised to cut income tax by one third by the year 2007 and other charges, including corporate taxes, to total 30 billion euros over five years.

Mr Le Pen wants to put an end to income tax, reduce tax on SMEs and abolish inheritance tax so that small businesses can pass from father to son. He also wants to cut down on all type of public spending - ie that of the state and other public bodies.

Europe

Mr Chirac would like to see a European constitution and president, as well as a common defence policy.

Mr Le Pen wants to restore the French franc and take France out of the "Europe of Maastricht," which he says is an infringement on French sovereignty.

Globalisation

Mr Chirac wants to promote international aid and development, including a poverty- and disease-eradication programme.

Mr Le Pen says he wants to restore France's prestige abroad by refusing to bow to what he calls the dominance of the US in the United Nations.

Corruption

Mr Chirac, who has been at the centre of corruption allegations, promises to reform the judicial status of the president - currently immune from prosecution during his term under French law.

Mr Le Pen says he wants to restore "the power of the people" by making increased use of the referendum where important reforms are concerned, and by "ending lobbies of all kinds".

Social security (pensions & health)

Social security and in particular the current pension system based on redistribution - today's workers pay for today's pensioners - is in need of reform as the number of pensioners rises faster than the number of workers needed to support them.

For Mr Chirac, the current system will remain, and corporate savings schemes encouraged alongside the introduction of "French-style" pension funds.

Mr Le Pen wants to preserve the redistribution system by encouraging economic activity and the birth rate, as well as give people a choice between the two systems above.

As for health care, Mr Chirac suggests a five-year investment plan in the system.

Mr Le Pen wants to split health care contribution between French and foreigners, and wants "the same social protection for all French people".


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