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Macron promises to 'transform not reform' France

In his election manifesto, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron promises to tackle high unemployment. He also vows to deal with the terror threat and accelerate the country's weak economic recovery.

Billing himself as pro-business, but also as someone who protects the weakest in society, the 39-year-old former economy minister promised "a radical transformation" of France's rigid labor market and to downsize the civil service in a bid to create a more flexible economy.

"The society I want will be both free of constraints and blockages," Macron told a media conference in Paris, immediately setting himself up for a confrontation with unions if he wins the presidency.

As he spoke, his campaign team tweeted key points from his manifesto.

France votes in a two-round election in April and May to pick a successor to the unpopular Socialist leader Francois Hollande. 

Macron leads 

The independent candidate on Thursday pledged to sell down government stakes in major firms, adding that the money raised would be used to finance a "Fund for Industry and Innovation."

Macron also vowed to put close to a million jobless people back to work and smooth out vast differences between public and private sector pensions. He also said he would keep France's pension age at 62 - compared to the between 65 and 67 that many European countries are moving toward.

Macron's campaign team sought to profit from an upsurge in public support following the "fake jobs"scandal that has engulfed Francois Fillon. The former prime minister is alleged to have paid his wife and two of his five children for parliamentary work they didn't do. 

'No more nepotism'

In a dig at his Republicans party challenger, Macron promised to shrink the size of parliament and "eradicate conflicts of interests," by banning all officials from employing family members.

His main challenger, Le Pen faces her own battles over allegedly using EU funds to pay her French-based staff, and on Thursday lost her EU parliamentary immunity amid a probe into her controversial tweets showing executions by the "Islamic State" (IS) armed group.

While Le Pen has made fighting Islamic extremism central to her campaign, Macron on Wednesday called for an international "roadmap" to better fight terrorism, after several deadly attacks left France traumatized over the past three years.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftskandidat Emmanuel Macron stellt sein Programm vor (Getty Images/AFP/L. Bonaventure)

Macron has promised to slash state spending in a bid to tackle the country's budget deficit

Tackling crime and intolerance

At home, he promised to hire 10,000 more police officers and boost efforts to improve relations between law enforcement and minority youths.

Macron's campaign staff tweeted his vow for a zero tolerance toward crime but also with regard to police brutality, a message that holds extra weight following allegations last month that several officers raped a young black man with a baton.

Macron also urged efforts to forge closer European cooperation, calling on the remaining 27 European Union members to defend their single market in talks with Britain on its exit.

His remarks put him at loggerheads with the far-right candidate, who wants to pull France out of the EU and eurozone, amid growing anti-EU sentiment since Britain's vote to leave the bloc.

Watch video 25:59

French election campaign - battle of the outsiders?

mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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