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France

Fillon reappointed premier, tasked with forming new government

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-11-14

Following the resignation of the government over the weekend, a required step before a cabinet reshuffle, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reappointed the popular Francois Fillon (pictured) as Prime Minister.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reappointed Francois Fillon as prime minister on Sunday, after accepting the resignation of the entire government the previous day ahead of a cabinet reshuffle.

Fillon resigned Saturday night, a required step before any new government can be put in place.

Sarkozy has also asked Fillon to form a new cabinet. According to the French constitution, it is the prime minister who proposes choices for government positions to the president, but the President has the power of veto. However, media observers in France put forth that Sarkozy has already made his selection and Fillon will simply rubber stamp his choices.

In a statement shortly after being renamed to the prime minister's post, Fillon said that the “new phase” would focus on strengthening growth to create jobs, promoting solidarity and ensuring the security of France.

The new cabinet is expected to be announced late Sunday or early Monday.

The reshuffle is being viewed as Sarkozy's last opportunity to reinvigorate his struggling administration ahead of the presidential elections in 2012.

Is Sarkozy riding on Fillon’s coat tails?

Fillon's image is one of a disciplined, measured politician and a safe pair of hands. He is relatively popular with the French public at large, and enjoys higher approval ratings than Sarkozy himself which could make him an asset going into the 2012 presidential election.

The Prime Minister also benefits from solid support within Sarkozy’s UMP party itself.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy’s own poll ratings have plummeted in recent months and many observers view the reshuffle as the president’s last chance to seize control of the agenda before the 2012 vote.

Sarkozy’s government has taken a sharp swerve to the right in recent months on law and order and immigration issues, sparking international outrage with the expulsions of Roma (gypsies) back to their homelands in Eastern Europe.

Voters have also baulked at Sarkozy’s somewhat domineering manner, and the media have dubbed him the ‘bling-bling’ president for his luxury lifestyle.

'Fillon is the most popular politician on the right.'

Furthermore, many were angered by the austerity measures introduced by the government in response to the global economic crisis. The raising of the state retirement age from 60 to 62 resulted in mass protests and strikes across France.

Jockying for position

Sarkozy announced in March that he planned to reform his cabinet this year, and this uncertainty has sparked damaging internal divisions within the administration as the government’s main players manoeuvred to secure their position.

Fillon's position was subject to speculation in the French media, but his strong support amongst lawmakers may have saved him. The prime minister is regularly greeted by standing ovations when he speaks before the National Assembly, which is something that Sarkozy can only aspire to.

Observers expect the new cabinet to shrink from 37 members to 26.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a high-profile former Socialist, and scandal-hit Labour Minister Eric Woerth are expected to be left out of the new cabinet, according to government sources.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who was briefly seen as a possible replacement for Fillon, said in a statement on Sunday that he had decided not to be part of the next government.

Right-wing former Prime Minister Alain Juppé stated Saturday that he expects to rejoin government as defence minister. Jean-Francois Cope is likely to be promoted to UMP party president from his previous post as its head in the national assembly, Reuters reported late Sunday.

As this transition is a standard part of the operating of the French government, there is no power vacuum at the heart of the state. Ministers will continue to take care of ongoing matters and their departments until their successors are appointed or their positions are confirmed.

Date created : 2010-11-14

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