French President François Hollande named a government dominated by moderate left-wingers yesterday after Socialist Party boss Martine Aubry, overlooked for the post of prime minister, said she no longer wanted to be part of the new cabinet.
Hollande, sworn in on Tuesday as France’s first Socialist president in 17 years, named Pierre Moscovici as finance minister and Laurent Fabius as foreign minister, under Prime Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault, like them a social democrat.
Ayrault said the team of 17 men and 17 women, the vast majority of whom have not been ministers before, was the first in French history to respect total gender balance, and their first meeting today would deliver on a promise to cut their own salaries by 30%.
“We’re already well-oiled and up and running,” Ayrault told France 2 TV.
Moscovici takes charge of a stagnant economy, lumbered with a jobless rate of almost 10% and the challenge of cutting heavy debts as Hollande launches his campaign against excessive austerity in Europe.
The new lineup, which could change again after parliamentary elections finish on June 17, holds its first meeting today — a public holiday in France — before Hollande heads to summits in the US of the G8 and NATO.
The withdrawal of Aubry, beaten by Hollande last year in the contest to run for president on the Socialist ticket, removes from the team an experienced former minister with a reputation as a fist-thumping left-winger.
Aubry, daughter of former European Commission chief Jacques Delors and architect of the 35-hour week as labour minister in the last French left-wing government of 1997-2002, told Le Monde newspaper she would stay away rather than settle for a consolation post.
“I talked with Francois Hollande. He said he had settled for Jean-Marc Ayrault. We agreed that under this configuration my presence in the government made little sense.”
Ayrault played down the affair, saying relations with Aubry remained friendly and that she was committed to playing a key role in the looming parliamentary election campaign.
Laurent Fabius, a veteran Socialist and former prime minister, was named as foreign minister, replacing conservative Alain Juppe.
Fabius was prime minister at just 37 in 1984 under Francois Mitterrand and was finance minister in 2000- 2002 under Lionel Jospin’s premiership.
He has been more of an enemy than a friend of Hollande in the past. Fabius, 65, treated Hollande with disdain when the two clashed over Europe in 2005, and campaigned for a no vote in a referendum on a European Constitutional treaty that Hollande, then Socialist Party leader, supported.
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