France's Hollande may ditch PM after bruising local elections
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Pressure is mounting on French President François Hollande, and the rumour-mill is in overdrive, in the wake of bruising losses for the ruling Socialists in local elections, the second round of which are due to take place this Sunday, March 30.
Among the changes he has pledged to implement are fiscal reforms intended to offer financial relief to struggling French families, while the French press are confidently predicting a cabinet reshuffle.
The French president stated that he will introduce a so-called “responsibility pact” which will cut business taxes to encourage employers to hire job-seekers.
Hollande also plans to slash public spending by 50 billion euros by 2017, when the next presidential elections are set to be held.
In a ministerial meeting earlier this week, Hollande reportedly emphasised the importance of “listening to the people”, who expressed their frustration with the current administration by handing resounding victories to the opposition conservatives (UMP) and the French far-right (National Front) last Sunday in the first round of voting.
A new prime minister?
As for the cabinet reshuffle, the main question occupying the Parisian chattering classes is whether or not Hollande will name a new prime minister to replace Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Switching prime ministers mid-way through a presidential term could be viewed as a knee-jerk reaction to the election losses.
But there have been calls within the party to bring in fresh blood, with the popular interior minister, Manuel Valls, one of the main names doing the rounds.
Indicating the very real possibility of those rumours becoming reality, Ayrault has been busily presenting himself as an indispensable link to other factions on the left, like the Green Party. Valls, on the other hand, is seen by many close to Ayrault as too much of a centrist to effectively keep the governing left-wing coalition intact.
Ayrault’s staff have also been schmoozing the notoriously partisan French press, resulting in French daily Le Monde writing an article citing “sources close to the minister” who highlighted Ayrault’s role in planning the much trumpeted upcoming reforms and argued that he must be the prime minister to introduce them.
For now, Hollande has remained mum as to which direction he is leaning.
One advisor, quoted anonymously in Le Monde, noted that he likely does not know himself what he will end up doing. “According to some people, that’s amateurishness,” the advisor assessed. “For [Hollande], that’s freedom.”
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