PARIS Dec 9 French Socialist would-be
presidential candidate Manuel Valls on Friday attacked his
conservative rival Francois Fillon's proposals to slash public
payroll and health spending, saying they threatened the
foundations of a welfare state dear to voters.
Valls' salvo came on the heels of an opinion poll showing 90
percent of people opposed to cutting spending on public
healthcare - a Fillon proposal that is raising concern even in
his own party, the centre-right Les Republicains.
"Things can be reformed, new sources of financing found ...
but you can't talk about the public service like that, eliminate
500,000 jobs, privatise social welfare, end reimbursement of
healthcare costs for a whole list of illnesses," said Valls.
Valls stood down last week as prime minister and hopes to
secure the Socialist Party ticket in a primary next January to
enter next year's presidential contest, which all current polls
indicate Fillon will win.
"This is what France is about: social welfare, healthcare,
aid for the most vulnerable, pensions -- the pillars of the
social contract," Valls told BFM TV in an interview.
At issue are a few lines in Fillon's election programme that
drew little attention until he became the candidate for Les
Republicains at the end of November.
In the manifesto, the former prime minister and social
affairs minister says that the public healthcare system has
scarcely changed since it took shape in 1945, and cannot
continue to operate under debts of 110 billion euros ($117
"I propose a system of general public insurance focused on
serious or long-term illnesses, with the rest privately
insured," he writes.
Even people from his own party are worried.
Bernard Accoyer, secretary general of Les Republicains and
historically close to Fillon, called this week for
clarification, something Fillon's aides have said he will do
His room for back-pedalling is limited, though; one of the
central themes of his campaign has been that governments must
break their habit of promising one thing and then doing another
His programme involves cutting public spending by 100
billion euros, cutting 500,000 public sector jobs, and pushing
the work week back up to 39 hours from 35 currently.
France's healthcare system is financed by taxes collected
from workers and employers; the social security system
reimburses the cost of most medicines, doctors' fees and
(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier, and Sophie Louet;
Editing by Kevin Liffey)