Latest update: 24/03/2010
Sarkozy addresses nation after heavy electoral defeat
In an usual move, French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his first public statement Wednesday since his party's heavy defeat in regional elections over the weekend. He is expected to address the recent dropping of the carbon tax.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy addresses the nation Wednesday for the first time since his right-wing UMP party’s heavy defeat in regional elections over the weekend. He will make the statement after meeting with his newly reshuffled cabinet.
In an unusual move, Sarkozy will likely be looking to address the growing discontent over his government policies and personal style of management. Some critics argue that he is simply not listening to the public’s concerns.
Sarkozy is also expected to explain his government’s sudden announcement on Tuesday that it is indefinitely postponing a controversial carbon tax, a reform that the President had touted as France’s key contribution to anti-global warming efforts.
Public sector strikes
On Tuesday, nationwide strikes hit schools, hospitals, postal services and public transportation across the country, while tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice their displeasure at planned pension reforms.
"Unemployment is going up, spending power is going down, there are real worries about the future of the country and it's time they went to the top of the agenda," Francois Chereque, head of the CFDT union said.
Reflecting this growing concern, Sarkozy's centre-right allies suffered their worst electoral defeat in more than five decades Sunday in regional elections, as leftist parties swept to power in 23 out of France's 26 regions.
The President responded by overseeing a re-jig of his cabinet, sacking former Labour minister Xavier Darcos, who had been set to lead negotiations on pension reform. In addition to his ministerial position, Darcos ran for the presidential seat of the Aquitaine region (a peculiarity of the French system, it is possible here to run for another seat if you already have one, on a national and regional level), but fared dismally in the polls and was thus subsequently fired.
The new Budget Minister was named as Eric Woerth, viewed by many as a safe pair of hands, who is now head of the labour ministry and will take over pension talks. Three newcomers were also called into the government to bolster the conservative and centrist ranks in Sarkozy’s administration.
Union leaders dismissed the reshuffle, saying it would do nothing to revive the economy and accused Sarkozy of failing to understand that the mood had changed in France.