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Popular Front advertises what it would do with power as France votes in first round of parliamentary election

THE first round of France’s parliamentary elections got under way yesterday.

Polls were still open when thi story was published, but figures suggested turnout was sharply up on two years ago.

Most constituencies will go to run-offs in a week’s time, with many likely to see a second-round choice between Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the Popular Front alliance of left-wing parties.

Wrong-footing President Emmanuel Macron, whose surprise announcement of early elections was widely interpreted as a bid to force the left to back him to beat the far right, the Popular Front has polled second after National Rally in most surveys since its formation via an agreement between the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Greens and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s France Unbowed, leaving the president’s liberal Renaissance outfit trailing in third.

On polling day it stressed its platform of radical opposition to the status quo, encouraging citizens angry at falling living standards to choose social justice rather than the anti-immigrant hysteria of National Rally.

In the first 100 days of a Popular Front government, it pledged to reverse the recent raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64 and commit to bringing it down to 60 in time.

It would cap petrol prices and bring in price controls for food both limiting what supermarkets can charge customers while imposing a price floor to protect producers, standard policy in many developing countries including India and China but viewed as anathema by governments in the “free market” West.

France Unbowed MP Manon Aubry stressed that a Popular Front administration would raise wages by curbing profits: “Shareholder income increased 85 per cent under Macron,” she told communist daily newspaper l’Humanite, “at the same time, real wages fell by 5 per cent. It’s time to prioritise low wages.” Proposals include an immediate hike of the minimum wage to €2,000 (£1,690) a month and indexing salaries to inflation.

France would also withdraw from environmentally damaging treaties such as the Ceta free-trade deal with Canada and introduce a wealth tax on billionaires, the Popular Front promised, calling for mass mobilisation by unions and activists to deliver a left government and force through its agenda in the teeth of corporate resistance.

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