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New Socialist cabinet takes power in France

The members of French President François Hollande's new cabinet were announced on Wednesday, including Pierre Moscovici as finance minister and former premier Laurent Fabius (pictured) as the minister of foreign affairs.


France unveiled President Francois Hollande's new government on Wednesday, with exactly half of the posts going to women – a promise the new head of state had made during his campaign.

Not counting the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was appointed on Tuesday, the cabinet consists of 34 members, two more than the outgoing cabinet that served under conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.

There was some concern over the news that Martine Aubry, Hollande’s former party rival and one of the Socialist Party’s most experienced women, would not join the cabinet after she was declined the prime ministerial position.

There was also some criticism over the top-level posts being given to men, despite the cabinet being France’s first to reach gender parity.

Former prime minister Laurent Fabius, 65, who campaigned against the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, was handed the role of foreign affairs minister, sparking concern among some Europhiles.

Pierre Rousselin, senior editor at French conservative daily Le Figaro, told FRANCE 24 that while the French might find him a “strange choice and a potential problem for Europe,” he may also turn out to be an advantage by gaining support from the majority of French people who voted “no” in the bitterly divisive 2005 referendum.

There was also some surprise over the appointment of Pierre Moscovici, 54, as finance minister. Moscovici was very close to Dominique Strauss-Kahn before becoming Hollande’s campaign manager. His post was expected to go to Hollande’s long term ally, Michel Sapin, who was instead named as labour minister.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, a 64-year-old local politician from Brittany, was named defence minister, while Manuel Valls, a free-market moderniser and a moderate within the Socialist Party, was named interior minister. Arnaud Montebourg, a 49-year-old from the left wing of the Socialist party, was put in charge of growth and industry.

Women in power

Christiane Taubira, from French Guiana, was named justice minister, making her the highest-ranking woman in the new cabinet. Outspoken and charismatic, the 60-year-old lawmaker authored a French law in 2001 making slavery a crime against humanity. She was the first black woman to run for president in 2002.

Other women who received cabinet posts include Marisol Touraine, minister for health and social affairs; housing minister Cecile Duflot, who is also the leader of the Green party; and several women who helped run Hollande’s presidential campaign, including Aurelie Filipetti, as culture minister, and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, in charge of women's rights, one of two new cabinet posts. She will also act as government spokesperson.

Anne-Cécile Mailfert, a gender equality activist from women’s rights group Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be feminist), told FRANCE 24 that she felt that there was a “clear divide” between women and men on the cabinet, with women receiving less important roles, save for minister of justice. “This is a little bit disappointing,” she said, though recognising the numerical parity as a “positive example” for society.

The first cabinet session will take place on Thursday at 13.00pm Paris time.

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