Sarkozy faces growing unease over 'ouverture'

4th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

4 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy faced growing unease inside his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party Wednesday over rumours that he intends to invite more opposition Socialists into the government.

4 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy faced growing unease inside his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party Wednesday over rumours that he intends to invite more opposition Socialists into the government.

The president has made no secret of his intention to continue the policy of "openness" which has already brought several leading left-wingers into the cabinet -- most notably Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

But rumours that the next phase could introduce such emblematic figures as former culture minister Jack Lang and Socialist Party (PS) spokesman Julien Dray have prompted a rare outburst of rebellion from UMP deputies.

"For the right, Jack Lang is a red rag. That would really be going too far," said former minister Francois Goulard.

Reacting to suggestions of Dray's possible appointment, UMP deputy George Tron said: "This whole openness thing is a stunt. I have not a single policy in common with Dray. It's time to stop this poaching of individuals who bring nothing to the ruling majority."

"If you put too much salt or pepper on a dish, it becomes inedible," said Nadine Morano, another UMP deputy.

But speaking Tuesday on a visit outside Paris with Martin Hirsch, a prominent left-winger who is the cabinet's High Commissioner for Solidarity against Poverty, Sarkozy said he planned to keep as wide a government as possible.

"I am always looking out for new talents... A head of state is someone who brings together, who holds out his hands, opens his arms. Sectarianism and clannishness are not part of my spirit. Do not count on me to head a UMP state," he said.

Behind criticism of Sarkozy from some UMP members is resentment at being overlooked for positions, despite their loyalty in the long campaign before the May elections.

However others concede that coopting opposition figures may be the best way to ensure the passage of tough economic reforms, which in the past have been defeated because of a too close identification with the right.

Neither Lang nor Dray have given any hint that they would accept a post in government, though Lang has agreed to sit on a committee set up by Sarkozy to examine possible reforms to France's ruling institutions.

In addition to Kouchner and Hirsch, the government also includes former socialists Eric Besson, Jean-Marie Bockel and Jean-Pierre Jouyet and the women's rights campaigner Fadela Amara. Several centrists, including Defence Minister Herve Morin, are also in the cabinet.

The rumblings come amid signs of divergent views between Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon over the pace of reform.

Fillon and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde appear to be straining to move more quickly with potentially unpopular measures in order to improve France's calamitous public finances.

AFP

Subject: French news

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