Sarkozy prepares cabinet reshuffle after electoral rout
A day after France's ruling UMP party suffered a drubbing in regional elections, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with his prime minister, François Fillon, amid expectations of a cabinet reshuffle.
France braced for a cabinet reshuffle on Monday as President Nicolas Sarkozy met with his prime minister, François Fillon, a day after the ruling UMP party was savagely beaten in regional elections.
The centre-right UMP picked up just 35.4 percent of the vote in the second round of voting in regional elections on Sunday, compared to 54.1 percent for the Socialist Party and its left-wing allies.
Soon after the results came through, Sarkozy’s top advisor Claude Guéant told French media that the cabinet reshuffle would be “slight” and that the government planned to continue its reform agenda.
Labour minister in the line of fire
Labour Minister Xavier Darcos seemed set to leave the government ahead of a tough round of negotiations with France’s powerful unions on the subject of pension reform, which Sarkozy has earmarked as his next major undertaking.
In Sunday’s elections, Darcos secured a mere 28 percent of the vote in his region, to his Socialist rival's 56.3 percent, further denting his credibility.
Reporting from the Elysee presidential palace, FRANCE 24's James André said others who might soon find themselves bumped from the government include junior ministers Fadela Amara, who deals with urban affairs, and Valerie Létard, in charge of green technologies.
Sarkozy was elected in 2007 on a pledge to reinvigorate France’s sagging economy. But his reforms have met with stiff resistance from the opposition as well as from ordinary French citizens struggling to cope with the effects of the global financial crisis.
Some of the toughest measures on Sarkozy’s reform agenda include a plan to raise the retirement age and amend pensions for public sector workers.
Back to right-wing basics
Speaking on Sunday shortly after the results of the regional elections were announced, Prime Minister Fillon admitted that the election results showed the government had "failed to convince the French public".
While the UMP suffered a drubbing in Sunday’s polls, the far-right National Front won more than nine percent of the vote, sparking questions about a resurgence of the anti-immigration party.
The UMP, according to FRANCE 24’s French politics specialist, Roselyne Lefebvre, is now stuck between a united left and a resurgent far-right National Front party. “The right -- and especially Nicolas Sarkozy -- has come out of the election weakened,” she said.
FRANCE 24's André suggested the government may seek to firm up the right wing in the cabinet reshuffle.
He said, “the so-called ‘ouverture’ ministers – those left-wing or centrist ministers that Nicolas Sarkozy went to pick and choose in other parties – may well lose their seats.”