Sarkozy unveils broad-based cabinet

FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a broad-based cabinet yesterday, naming popular leftist Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister in a slimline government that radically reshaped the finance ministry.

Maintaining an election promise, Sarkozy appointed seven women to his 15-strong team, breaking a male stranglehold on power and halving the number of cabinet posts.

Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who was appointed on Thursday, held their first cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon, sending a clear signal they immediately want to get to work on their reform programme.

Alain Juppe, a former prime minister, becomes the government number two heading a new super-ministry that combines the environment, sustainable development, transport and energy.

Jean-Louis Borloo, the previous labour minister, becomes France’s economy chief, in charge of a revamped portfolio that he told Le Monde newspaper would include economic strategy, employment, industry, trade and tourism.

‘‘My only mission is to cut unemployment to 5% by the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s five-year mandate, as he has pledged,’’ Borloo told Le Monde newspaper.

He will work alongside Eric Woerth, former treasurer of Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, who will be responsible for the state budget and all aspects of public spending.

Many of the important social reforms promised by Sarkozy, including curbing union powers and creating a simplified, single labour contract for workers, will fall to his former campaign spokesman, Xavier Bertrand in his new role as labour minister.

In a first, Sarkozy reached out to the opposition and picked three leftists for his administration — Kouchner as foreign minister, Jean-Pierre Jouyet as secretary of state for Europe and Eric Besson as secretary of state for public policy.

The Socialists said Sarkozy wanted to destabilise them in the wake of their presidential election defeat, and indicated that Kouchner, the co-founder of the Nobel prize-winning charity Doctors without Borders, would be expelled from the party.

Reaching out to centrist allies, Sarkozy appointed Herve Morin as defence minister.

He will replace Michele Alliot-Marie, who switches to an interior ministry that has been stripped of responsibility for immigration issues.

These have been placed in a highly controversial new ministry for immigration and national identity, which Sarkozy entrusted to his longest-standing ally, Brice Hortefeux.

One of the first tasks of the new government will be to campaign for legislative elections on June 10 and 17, which the president must win to enact his reform program.

Opinion polls have suggested that he should secure a strong majority.

Sarkozy wants his ministers to prepare a raft of laws to present to the new parliament as soon as it sits this summer.

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