Sarkozy to give women clout in government

10th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 10, 2007 (AFP) - France's newly-elected president Nicolas Sarkozy will name a government next week that for the first time will put women in as many ministerial positions as men to carry out a programme of tough reforms.

PARIS, May 10, 2007 (AFP) - France's newly-elected president Nicolas Sarkozy will name a government next week that for the first time will put women in as many ministerial positions as men to carry out a programme of tough reforms.

France is set to join Chile, Finland, Spain and Sweden which have embraced gender parity in government by naming at least seven women to the streamlined 15-person team that Sarkozy plans to unveil soon after taking office on Wednesday.

Some of the groundbreaking appointments are expected to include that of Michele Alliot-Marie, 60, the current defence minister, as France's first woman foreign minister.

But some inexperienced younger women such as Rachida Dati, 41, a lawyer born to north African immigrants who served as a campaign spokeswoman for Sarkozy, could be propelled to the weighty position of justice minister.

Sarkozy, who beat Socialist Segolene Royal in the May 6 presidential runoff, had promised to give women an equal share of the portfolios as part of his pledge to be "the president of all the French people."

The former interior minister won the women's vote, according to an Ipsos poll which showed that 52 percent of women had backed him against 48 percent for Royal, who had urged voters to make history by putting a woman in the Elysee.

"He wants to project an image of modernity, of a man moving in step with the times and with society. Gender parity is part of that modernity," said Mariette Sineau, a researcher on women and government at the CEVIPOF institute for political studies.

For Sineau, it is a great paradox that a right-wing president is pushing the doors to government wide-open for women after decades of leftist pledges to do just that.

It was under president Francois Mitterrand that women gained prominence in government, culminating with the appointment in 1991 of Edith Cresson as the first woman prime minister.

Sarkozy is widely expected to name close adviser and former education and social affairs minister Francois Fillon, 53, as prime minister, while another top confidant, Brice Hortefeux, 48, has been tipped as likely interior minister.

Alliot-Marie, 60, who last year considered challenging Sarkozy for the presidential nomination of the governing UMP party, is a veteran politician known for her loyalty to President Jacques Chirac.

Defence minister since 2002, she would be one of the few figures to survive from the Chirac government.

Alliot-Marie was elected president of Chirac's Rally for the Republic Party (RPR) in 1999 and stayed in the position until the party became the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) in 2002.

Dati, who joined then interior minister Sarkozy in 2002 as an adviser on delinquency issues, helped build up a network of supporters in the immigrant-heavy suburbs and organised two campaign stops for Sarkozy in the poor areas.

Other "Sarkozettes," as they have been called, include Christine Lagarde, 51, a high-flying corporate lawyer and the current international trade minister, who could become agriculture minister with a view to leading negotiations on farm subsidies at the World Trade Organisation.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 33, an expert on environmental issues, and Valerie Pecresse, 39, a combative UMP spokeswoman who could be named health minister, are also cited among the rising stars.

Other names floating are those of Roselyne Bachelot, 60, a former environment minister and Chirac's spokeswoman in the 2002 campaign, and of Christine Boutin, 63, known for her opposition to gay unions.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French new

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