Reshuffle strengthens French prime minister: press
France's newspapers gave a cool reception Monday to President Nicolas Sarkozy's new-look government, while noting that Prime Minister Francois Fillon had emerged a stronger figure.
For after months of speculation as to who he might choose to replace him, Sarkozy finally opted to keep Fillon in place.
It was all something of an anti-climax, wrote the left-leaning daily Liberation: after all the fuss, "continuity had prevailed over change."
Regional paper the Depeche de Midi was more scathing, noting that "after months of hesitation, we have taken back the same, but worse. A masquerade."
The communist paper L'Humanite used the same term, denouncing the long-running drama of the impending reshuffle.
For it was in March that Sarkozy first indicated he would reshuffle his cabinet, provoking growing tension within his own party in the ensuing months as rival candidates manouevred for the top jobs.
"The surprise is that there isn't one," wrote the regional daily Ouest-France. But by keeping Fillon in post, Sarkozy had strengthened the prime minister's hand, it added.
It was not the only paper to note that Sarkozy had referred to Fillon as his "collaborator", suggesting that the prime minister had returned to his post with his status enhanced.
In the past, the French press has described Sarkozy as "the hyper-president" because of his tendency to intervene in nearly every field of government, regardless of which minister has nominal reponsibility.
Now, wrote The Tribune, it was more a case of "Fillon, hyper-prime minster".
"Francois Fillon digs in," noted La Voix du Nord. "The 'collaborator' scores over his boss."
The Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace took a similar view.
"The head of the government wins on every count: not only does he stay, but he wins greater political freedom."
And for some newspapers, Fillon's reappointment showed not just his rising stock, but Sarkozy's relative weakness.
"The president's wishes, as hyper as he might be, are no longer orders," noted La Montagne.
"And so Francois Fillon, freed, is finally going to move from the status of 'collaborator' to that of 'real' prime minister," wrote La Republique du Centre.
© 2010 AFP