Skip to comments.Sarkozy reshuffles government after vote disaster
Posted on 03/22/2010 11:55:18 PM PDT by Cincinna
PARIS, March 23, 2010 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy sacked one minister and reshuffled his government after a humiliating defeat by the left in regional elections, but faced more pressure Tuesday from planned strikes.
Sarkozy replaced Labour Minister Xavier Darcos with Budget Minister Eric Woerth in a key change as the increasingly unpopular president limbered up for contested pension reforms.
But France's unions have joined forces to organise strikes in dozens of cities Tuesday to protest unemployment, wages, the high cost of living - and plans to change the pension system, the next major government reform project.
The minor reshuffle also saw Francois Baroin, who had served as a minister during Jacques Chirac's presidency, taking Woerth's job. His appointment has been seen as a bid to appease the centre-right members of the party.
Sarozy also appointed a new youth minister and a new junior labour minister, fine-tuning his government after voters punished his rightwing UMP party in the polls.
The second round of ballots on Sunday left the UMP in charge of only one of the regions of mainland France and Corsica in the last ballot-box test of Sarkozy's popularity before the 2012 presidential vote.
The results were "a big wake-up call for quick and effective action" to tackle unemployment and other effects of the economic crisis, the president's chief of staff Claude Gueant told AFP.
Tensions also surfaced within the governing party, with former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin calling for a confidence vote on the president's reforms after the opposition Socialists roundly beat it at the polls.
Meanwhile, supporters of one of Sarkozy's most bitter rivals within the right, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, said he would form a political party to challenge the president in 2012.
Sarkozy was elected in 2007 on promises to boost France's economy and get people back to work, but last year's recession has driven unemployment up to 10 percent, its highest level in a decade.
The next big hurdle on his agenda is a plan to raise retirement age and reform the generous pensions of some public sector workers - measures that looked set for tough resistance even before Sunday's defeat.
The controversial pension reform, one of the issues at the heart of Tuesday's strikes, is likely to be a major political flashpoint for Sarkozy's government in the coming months.
The Socialist-led opposition beat the UMP by around 54 to 36 percent in the vote, according to the interior ministry, leaving the UMP in control of only one of France's mainland regions, the right-wing stronghold Alsace.
The far-right National Front won more than nine percent of the vote overall, confirming a comeback for the anti-immigrant party.
Sunday's result was another blow to a president whose personal approval ratings are at an all-time low and will likely increase pressure within his own party for a change of direction.
An Ipsos survey published Monday found that 58 percent of respondents did not want Sarkozy to run for president again in 2012, against 33 percent who backed a second candidacy.
The poll of 952 people was carried out on Friday and Saturday by Le Point magazine.
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Sarko got Sunday’s message and has acted very quickly. He has added people from the Chirac and Villepin factions of his party to present a more united front against the surge of the Socialists.
We all remember that weasel Villepin as Chirac’s emissarey to the UN during the buildup to the Iraq War. Silver haired leader of the Axis of Weasels.
I do not care for Sarkozy, but Dominique de Villepin is a fool who wants Turkey in the EU.
Where is that "Le plume est sur la table" guy in this race? (oops, race, get it)
Things could turn ugly like in the late 60’s.
Villepin also hates America.
Sarko is very pro-American.
I like Sarko, what little I know about him.
Sarko “The American” is facing the problems of Greece and Spain and the socialists the world over.
He’s like Gov. Chris Christie trying to buck the tide of failure. Christie said enough “what’s in it for me” but in France they can’t let it go. They are “entitled” and that’s the only thing that gets them wee weed up.
Doesn’t look good for France or Greece or Spain, etc., etc.
And how does the US look with Obomb-uh at the helm? Not good.