Sarkozy loyalist Fillon named prime minister

17th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 17, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday named Francois Fillon, a loyal advisor and moderate right-winger, as prime minister to steer through his promised social and economic reforms.

PARIS, May 17, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday named Francois Fillon, a loyal advisor and moderate right-winger, as prime minister to steer through his promised social and economic reforms.

The 53-year-old senator for the ruling UMP party, who worked closely with Sarkozy on his election campaign, is seen as a safe pair of hands whose experience of pensions reform will be a key asset to the new government.

Fillon met Sarkozy, who took over as head of state from Jacques Chirac on Wednesday, for a working breakfast before heading to Matignon, the prime minister's official residence, for a handover ceremony with the outgoing head of government Dominique de Villepin.

Paying tribute to Villepin's "passion and commitment" during his two years in office, Fillon said it was his "duty and mandate" to respect the French people's vote for a "new kind of politics."

"I will respect all the commitments we have made. That is the price of political renewal.

"To serve France is to ensure it has a leading place in the coming century, marked by challenges that are sometimes alarming, but which we have every means to overcome is we only recover our passion and trust in the future," he said.

Sarkozy and Fillon were to unveil their cabinet on Friday.

The 15-member government is expected to include prominent Socialist Bernard Kouchner, founder of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) charity, as foreign minister. Sarkozy has also promised that about half the ministers will be women.

The new French leader, who was elected on May 6 on a promise of deep social and economic reform, renewed his pledge to tackle France's social and economic malaise when he assumed power on Wednesday.

"There is a demand for change. Never have the risks of inertia been so great for France as they are now in this world in flux where everyone across the world is trying to change quicker than the others, where any delay can be fatal," he said.

Fillon made his mark as a reformer as social affairs minister under Chirac, from 2002 to 2004, when he overhauled France's pension system, facing down million-strong street protests.

Jogging partners throughout the election campaign, Fillon's friendship with Sarkozy dates back to the 1990s but he threw all of his energy into building up the Sarkozy electoral machine after losing his government post in a reshuffle in 2005.

His low-key demeanour is often described as complementary to Sarkozy's hyper-active side. But like Sarkozy, Fillon embraces a can-do attitude to politics, rejecting the view that France is unreformable.

Fillon will lead Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) into parliamentary elections in June aiming for the majority needed to push through the reforms in the eurozone's second largest economy. Most opinion polls say the UMP will easily win that majority.

Fillon is married to Penelope Clarke, a Welsh woman whom he met in his mid-20s. The couple have five children.

After studying political science and law, Fillon began his career as a parliamentary attache and was first elected deputy for his home region of Sarthe in 1981, becoming the youngest member of the National Assembly.

He served as higher education minister from 1993 to 1995 and as minister for postal services and telecommunications from 1995 to 1997 and was elected senator for the Sarthe department in 2005.

Fillon's 15-member government is predicted to include prominent Socialist and humanitarian Bernard Kouchner, founder of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) charity, as foreign minister.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie could be named interior minister while former prime minister Alain Juppe is expected to be at the helm of a new super-ministry for environment, sustainable development, energy and transport.

The popular former employment minister Jean-Louis Borloo is expected to become minister for economic strategy, business and employment, spearheading the drive for economic reform.

Another expected high-profile appointment is Sarkozy's campaign spokeswoman Rachida Dati, a 41-year-old tipped for the justice ministry, who would be the first politician of North African origin to hold a top French government post.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article