PARIS (Reuters) - Following are the main election pledges of the six leading candidates in France’s 2012 presidential race:
* Sarkozy wants structural economic reforms to boost competitiveness and growth. Before officially declaring his candidacy he announced proposals to wind down the 35-hour week and raise VAT in order to fund a reduction in social charges for employers to lower the cost of labor;
* Sarkozy has pledged to reform the country’s generous welfare system to get the long-term unemployed back to work. Jobless claimants will have to retrain or risk losing benefits. Those on minimum benefits will do seven hours paid work a week;
* To tackle chronic youth unemployment, Sarkozy has promised apprenticeships for 14-year olds and wants at least 5 percent of job posts at larger companies to be internships;
* He has promised national referendums on policy plans blocked in parliament to “give the public its voice back”;
* In a bid to shed his reputation for favoring the rich, he has promised to tax dividend income, apply a minimum 15 percent tax on major French corporations and introduce a levy for tax exiles who seek refuge abroad from France’s high rates;
* To curb the excesses of the financial industry, Sarkozy has promised tougher regulation on banks and the introduction of a financial transaction tax;
* He wants to halve the number of foreigners entering the country legally each year and increase deportations of illegal immigrants. Conditions for obtaining French papers and benefits will be tightened and Sarkozy has threatened to suspend France’s membership of Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone unless he sees progress on EU external border controls;
* Sarkozy has made protecting French jobs a central election issue, threatening to impose unilateral trade restrictions in public procurement unless the EU introduces “Buy European” legislation within a year;
* He backs nuclear power but has said that renewable energy will make up 23 percent of power supply by 2020;
* In the wake of shootings by an Islamist gunman, he has proposed making it an offence to access Jihadist websites that glorify killing, and to go abroad for Jihadist indoctrination;
* Sarkozy opposes gay marriage and euthanasia.
* Hollande opposes a financial policy based only on austerity and has promised to renegotiate the European fiscal compact to include provisions on jobs and growth;
* Although his manifesto pledges to balance French finances by the end of 2017, Hollande has also said he will adapt that target if growth is weak and will not sacrifice France’s interests to meet it. His deficit-reduction measures include reversing tax breaks and introducing new taxes which he says will bring in an extra 29 billion euros of revenue;
* At the same time, Hollande has outlined 20 billion euros of new spending over five years, including restoring the right to retire at 60 for those who began work at 18. He plans to hire 60,000 more educators over his term and 1,000 police a year, and create 150,000 state-aided jobs to tackle youth unemployment;
* Hollande has promised to target the rich with a 75 percent tax rate on those earning over 1 million euros a year and a 45 percent tax rate for those earning over 150,000 euros. He will limit executive pay to 20 times the average wage, cut the President’s salary and index the minimum wage to growth;
* Hollande aims to fight discrimination with sanctions for companies failing to offer equal pay, a Ministry of Women’s Rights and the attribution of half the ministerial posts in his cabinet to women. He would also remove the word “race” from the French constitution and open a parliamentary debate on immigration quotas. He backs gay marriage and adoption;
* Like Sarkozy, he is promising to curb financial excess by separating retail and investment banking and imposing a financial transaction tax. He wants to ban toxic financial products and stock options, curb bonuses, create a European ratings agency and stop banks working in offshore tax havens;
* To promote French industry and jobs, Hollande will create a public investment bank to support small enterprises and industries of the future. Companies investing in France and keeping production local will receive public aid and financing. He also plans to help major corporations shift production back to France and will cut tax rates for small and medium companies;
* He wants to reduce the share of nuclear energy in the power supply to 50 percent from 75 percent by 2025, and has promised to close the ageing Fessenheim nuclear plant but complete work on the advanced Flamanville EPR power station.
* Le Pen wants to pull France out of the euro and take back control of the country’s currency and monetary policy;
* She plans to renegotiate EU treaties to give states greater sovereignty and control of their national borders and wants to cut EU contributions;
* Le Pen has pledged to get rid of EU free trade and competition rules and impose trade barriers on goods from China and Eastern Europe;
* She will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with a French Agricultural Policy aimed at stabilizing commodity prices, reducing bureaucracy and promoting environmentally-friendly farming techniques;
* To balance the budget, Le Pen will tackle tax and benefit fraud, eliminate inefficient tax breaks and bring immigration under control. Her manifesto also includes a promise to introduce a fairer tax system and let the central bank buy French government bonds, contrary to EU rules;
* Le Pen has promised steps to boost jobs, including penalties for companies using illegal immigrants and give preference to French nationals for job openings and welfare benefits. She also wants to encourage companies to take on over-45s and young workers and ban positive discrimination;
* She plans to protect purchasing power by lowering fuel tax and controlling the price of basic goods such as milk and bread;
* Bayrou backs an EU-wide “golden rule” and says he will balance the budget by 2016 with 50 billion euros of spending cuts and an equivalent rise in revenues. Tax hikes include a 1 point rise in VAT, a new 50 percent rate for high earners and a rise in the 41 percent rate to 45 percent. He has also promised to tackle tax evasion and benefit fraud;
* Bayrou has pledged to create a “Made in France” label to boost the image of home-made goods and protect industry and jobs. He also wants to cut bureaucracy for businesses and ensure easier access to finance for small firms;
* To combat the excesses of finance, he has promised to tighten regulation of derivatives and commodity markets, fight tax havens and look into the idea of separating retail and investment banking activities;
* On security issues he will increase the use of surveillance cameras and introduce sanctions for first-time offenders, particularly the very young, including reparation of victims and educational measures;
* Bayrou supports further European integration, with common defense and energy policies, and an EU president elected by popular vote. He also wants the ECB to be able to intervene directly to help finance individual euro zone states;
* Bayrou has put education at the heart of his campaign as a means to ensure equal opportunities and reduce unemployment. He has ruled out reductions in teacher numbers, wants to shorten the school week to 28 hours and reduce class sizes and continue modernizing the higher education system to encourage innovation.
* Campaigning for a “citizen’s revolution”, Melenchon wants to reduce inequality by setting a maximum wage of 360,000 euros and raise the minimum wage to 1,700 euros from 1,400 this year. He also wants to tax investment income more heavily, increase France’s wealth tax and get rid of a tax shield on high earners;
* He has promised to restore the legal retirement age at 60 instead of 62 for all workers, protect the 35-hour work week, cap rents and house prices and nationalize energy companies;
* Melenchon has also pledged to rescind the deficit-curbing European stability pact and the Six Pack of EU legislation enforcing stricter budget discipline, and to establish a new European pact for social progress and co-development.
* Joly wants to stop all nuclear energy production in France by 2020 and derive 40 percent of the country’s energy needs from renewable sources by that date;
* She has promised to increase minimum income benefits by 50 percent, freeze rents for three years and introduce new tax rates of 60 percent for those earning 100,000 euros or more a year and 70 percent for those earning over 500,000 euros. Joly also wants a minimum 17 percent corporate tax rate on multinational companies;
* Joly wants to replace the European Stability Pact on budget discipline with a an Ecological and Social Development Pact, with financial, environmental and social targets.
Reporting By Vicky Buffery; Editing by Paul Taylor