France's Socialist chief reshuffles his pack

5th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 4 (AFP) - French Socialist party leader and potential 2007 presidential candidate Francois Hollande reshuffled his team on Saturday, moving swiftly to put the recent damaging split within the party over a referendum on the new European constitution behind him.

PARIS, Dec 4 (AFP) - French Socialist party leader and potential 2007 presidential candidate Francois Hollande reshuffled his team on Saturday, moving swiftly to put the recent damaging split within the party over a referendum on the new European constitution behind him.

Announcing his new cabinet Hollande made it clear he expected his colleagues to close ranks ahead of the national referendum on the constitution expected next year.

"There will be one Socialist campaign in France and in Europe, and one campaign only," he said after a meeting with senior officials here.

"There will be no place for a No campaign," he said.

Hollande, who has emerged from this latest test of his leadership with his authority strengthened, sent a clear message to senior colleagues who had campaigned against the constitution.

He said that in the light of the ballot result, in which 59 percent of Socialist militants voted in favour of the constitution, a Yes vote in a national referendum should not now be in doubt.

Those who voted No in the ballot, he said, should now "keep quiet".

"There will be no change of line, or direction or strategy," he told journalists adding that the Socialists would remain faithful to what he called "the reforms of the left".

Party members had voted overwhelmingly in an internal ballot on Wednesday in favour of the controversial new EU document.

But although the result boosted to chances that the constitution would be approved right across the EU, the process was a painful one for French Socialists, revealing a clear split within the party leadership in a very public debate.

One man who will have received Hollande's message loud and clear is former prime minister and Socialist heavyweight Laurent Fabius, the leader of the group calling for a No vote in the ballot.

Fabius and the left of the Socialist party had argued that the constitution would entrench American-style free-market economics at the heart of the European Union, and spell an end for efforts to improve social equality.

Supporters said that even if the text was not perfect it represented a further advance towards the objective of European integration, to which the PS had always subscribed.

Fabius himself survived his high-profile opposition to Hollande by keeping his position as party number two in the shuffle, but many of his supporters now find themselves out in the cold.

And there was disappointment for those feel the party is being dragged too far too the right, as Hollande announced that former Socialist ministers Dominique Strauss-Khan, Jack Lang and Martine Aubry - all fervent backers of the constitution - would work together on preparing the ground for the 2007 presidential vote.

Former Socialist leader Henri Emmanuelli criticised what he called "a lurch to the right" by the party and regretted the decision to appoint the trio, saying they represented "social liberalism, and sometimes in an extremely candid way."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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