* Presidential election frontrunner presents manifesto
* Centrist would cut parliamentary seats by a third
* Also aims to make pensions fairer if elected
* Would sell down govt stakes in some firms
By Michel Rose and Emmanuel Jarry
PARIS, March 2 Presidential frontrunner Emmanuel
Macron said he would root out inequalities in France's pension
system, sell down government stakes in major firms and downsize
parliament, as he unveiled a manifesto to set him apart from
Standing as an independent centrist, Macron is tipped by
opinion polls to defeat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a
run-off vote in May.
"The society I want will be both free of constraints and
blockages and protective of the weakest," Macron said in the
programme, seen by Reuters and presented on Thursday following
accusations that he has remained vague about his presidential
Several proposed reforms seem certain to provoke heated
debate in a country where long-established conventions are being
undermined by a feeble economic recovery, high unemployment and
widespread discontent over attempts to integrate Europe's
biggest Muslim community and deal with terrorism.
While France's government has traditionally held large
stakes in companies of national stature, Macron said he would
sell 10 billion euros ($10.55 billion) worth of shares in groups
in which the state does not hold a majority.
The money raised will be put in a "Fund for Industry and
Innovation" to finance future projects.
Macron, who last week outlined a broad economic plan mixing
tax cuts, a reduction in government jobs and higher investments
, said he aimed to smooth out vast differences
between the pensions of government employees and those in the
private sector, while keeping the pension age at 62.
In contrast with previous French governments' refusal to
engage in American-inspired "positive discrimination", Macron
also said he would give companies who hire people from 200
designated poor neighbourhoods a 15,000 euros bonus over three
He will also reduce the number of subjects to be taken in
the baccalaureate, a pre-university exam created by Napoleon
that has become a rite of passage for generations of French
people but costs up to 1.5 billion euros to organise every year.
In measures designed to appeal more to left-wing voters,
Macron said he would raise disability and old-age allowances by
100 euros a month and penalise employers who used too many
In a measure unlikely to go down well with either his fellow
politicians or France's long-established core of elected
officials, he said he would cut by a third the number of
lawmakers in both the lower and upper parliamentary houses and
by at least a quarter the number of province-level authorities
classified as "departements".
($1 = 0.9480 euros)
(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by John Stonestreet)