Ségolène Royal, former partner and mother to French President François Hollande's four children, was named minister of the environment, sustainable development and energy in part of a major cabinet reshuffle announced on Wednesday.
Former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici has left the government and the brief has been split between two Socialists: Michel Sapin will take charge of finance, and Arnaud Montebourg will be in charge of industry and economy.
Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian hold on to their jobs as foreign affairs and defence ministers.
On Tuesday, former Interior Minister Mauel Valls was appointed France’s new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Wednesday’s reshuffle follows a poor showing for Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) in last month’s local elections in which the opposition conservative UMP party made big gains, while the far-right National Front won 11 mayoral seats in French towns and cities.
Big challenges ahead
The new government has a huge task ahead of it, with rising unemployment that reached a record 3.34 million in February and stagnant growth.
Hollande has charged Valls with implementing his much-vaunted package of pro-business policies known as the ‘Responsibility Pact’, which will cut the high business taxes blamed for hampering growth and employment which are to be financed by spending cuts of 50 billion euros. He also asked him to set in motion a new ‘Solidarity Pact’ that would include steps to boost spending on education and health, and to reduce personal income taxes.
But many within the Socialist Party are unhappy with the nomination of 51-year-old Valls as prime minister.
The former interior minister is popular with voters across the political spectrum, but his style and politics, often compared to those of former British premier Tony Blair, have alienated more left-leaning members of the party.
Already, the Green EELV party jumped ship, announcing late on Tuesday that "EELV refuses to participate in a Valls government", despite the fact that the new premier offered to create an enlarged ministry overseeing the ecology, energy and transport that they could head up.
Royal, who takes the environment brief instead, split with Hollande shortly after she ran unsuccessfully against former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election. She and Hollande had four children together, although they never married.
Royal, 60, was reportedly prevented from entering Hollande's first cabinet in 2012 by Valérie Trierweiler, who was at the time the French president’s partner.
Trierweiler split with Hollande after revelations in January that he was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet.
THE FACES OF FRANCE'S NEW GOVERNMENT
Manuel Valls, prime minister
Spanish-born Manuel Valls, France's former interior minister, is seen as a moderate in the Socialist Party. Valls came last in the party's primaries for the presidential race, and then acted as Hollande’s presidential campaign spokesperson.
Ségolène Royal, minister of environment and energy
François Hollande’s former partner and mother of his four children, Ségolène Royal was reportedly blocked from the 2012 cabinet by Hollande’s then girlfriend, Valérie Trierweiler. Royal was the Socialist presidential candidate in the 2007 race against Nicolas Sarkozy.
Laurent Fabius, minister of foreign affairs
Laurent Fabius has been a fixture of French politics for the past 30 years. In 1984, at the age of 37, he became France's youngest-ever prime minister. Eight times elected to parliament, he has also served as finance minister and speaker of France's National Assembly.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, minister of women’s rights, youth and sports
Moroccan-born Rhône councillor Najat Vallaud-Belkacem served as a spokesperson for both Ségolène Royal in 2007 and François Hollande in 2012.
Christiane Taubira, minister of justice
A member of parliament for French Guiana, Christiane Taubira was born in the South American territory in 1952. She is best known for the highly divisive law authorising same-sex marriage, which she championed under ex-Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of defence
President of the regional council of Brittany, Jean-Yves Le Drian is Hollande's long-standing friend. He served as secretary of state for maritime affairs in 1991-1992. As defence minister in the 2012 cabinet, Le Drian oversaw the military operations in Mali and CAR.
Aurélie Filippetti, minister of culture
A Green Party member before joining the Socialists to support Ségolène Royal in 2006, Aurélie Filippetti has been MP for the northeastern constituency of Moselle since 2007. She is one of several 2012 cabinet members who have retained their posts in 2014.
Michel Sapin, finance minister
Former labour minister in the 2012 cabinet, Michel Sapin is a key economics advisor to Hollande and very close to the president, whom he has known since their youth. He has served as a cabinet minister under three former prime ministers.
Arnaud Montebourg, minister of economy and industry
A lawyer by training, Arnaud Montebourg was industry minister in the 2012 cabinet. In 2014, Montebourg was given the expanded title of economy minister with oversight over industry and the digital economy.
Marisol Touraine, minister of social affairs
A former minister of health, Marisol Touraine is also a member of the committee for social affairs at the National Assembly.
Stéphane Le Foll, agriculture minister and government spokesman
A member of the European parliament (MEP) since 2004, Stéphane Le Foll stays on as agriculture minister and has also been named government spokesman. He is Hollande's oldest friend in the cabinet.
François Rebsamen, labour and employment minister
Another close friend of François Hollande, François Rebsamen, the former Socialist mayor of Dijon, was initially tipped to succeed Manuel Valls as interior minister.
Bernard Cazeneuve, interior minister
The big surprise of the 2014 cabinet was Bernard Cazeneuve’s appointment as interior minister, a post vacated by current Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Cazeneuve was previously budget minister and is close to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Date created : 2014-04-02