FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012

Hollande names longtime ally Ayrault as prime minister

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the leader of the Socialist Party in parliament and the mayor of Nantes, was named France's new prime minister on Tuesday by François Hollande. Ayrault is a longtime ally of the new president and a known moderate.

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France’s new president, François Hollande, appointed veteran lawmaker Jean-Marc Ayrault as his prime minister on Tuesday, hours after being sworn in to the country's top job.

Ayrault, 62, is the mayor of the northwest city of Nantes and a longtime leader of the Socialist Party in parliament.

A close ally of newly elected French President François Hollande for the past 15 years, he was seen as more moderate in his views than other candidates for the post, including Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry.

Secretary general:

   Pierre-René Lemas

Chief of staff:

   General Benoît Puga

Cabinet director:

   Sylvie Hubac

Political adviser:

   Aquilino Morelle
 

In the French executive branch, which does not include a vice president, the prime minister heads all other government ministries, oversees domestic affairs and is second only to the president in importance.

Hollande faithful

Hollande had already dropped heavy hints that he would pick Ayrault, notably when he declared at an April 27 press conference in the central city of Bourges that he would appoint a “a well-known Socialist familiar with parliament” and someone with whom he shared “good relations”.

Indeed, Ayrault and Hollande have been close collaborators in parliament, often sitting side by side in the lower-house National Assembly. In 1997, when Ayrault first became president of the Socialist group in parliament, Hollande became their party’s first secretary on the national level.

Ayrault was also among the first Socialist heavyweights to back Hollande’s bid for the party’s presidential nomination. “I have a real friendship with François, who is a reformer on the left,” Ayrault explained during the Socialist Party’s primaries in late 2011.

No experience of government

The French media say Ayrault’s strengths include his fluency in German and his knowledge of politics in Berlin. A former German teacher, the MP maintains good relations with Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Germany’s main opposition party.

Ayrault’s political entourage in Nantes describe a mild-mannered man who knows how to take a leadership role. He has also built a reputation as a politician who ardently defends arts and culture.

A lack of experience with ministerial portfolios, however, could prove to be a problem – a criticism that Hollande has also repeatedly faced. And like Hollande, Ayrault has been criticised by commentators for lacking charisma.

Analysts foresee possible clashes with Green Party leaders, who could be called on by Hollande to fill cabinet posts.

An airport project in Nantes championed by Ayrault, for example, is fiercely opposed by environmentalists.

 

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