Sarkozy tunes government as Chirac bids adieu

15th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy was putting the finishing touches to his broad-based government on Tuesday as Jacques Chirac prepared to bid farewell in a nationwide address.

PARIS, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy was putting the finishing touches to his broad-based government on Tuesday as Jacques Chirac prepared to bid farewell in a nationwide address.

On the eve of his inauguration, Sarkozy has surprised members of his own rightwing party and his leftist opponents by reaching out to prominent Socialists with offers of ministerial posts.

Bernard Kouchner, a world-renowned humanitarian who founded the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) charity and served as the UN representative in Kosovo, was tipped to become the new foreign minister.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was expected to be named interior minister and one of Sarkozy's closest advisers, Brice Hortefeux, was to take the helm of the new ministry of immigration and national identity, according to sources.

The government Sarkozy puts together will be in office until parliamentary elections in June that will decide whether he will have the strong majority in the legislature needed to push through his reform programme.

Most of the ministers are likely to stay on in their posts after the vote, if, as opinion polls predict, the ruling UMP party remains dominant in the national assembly.   

The latest economic data released Tuesday, showing growth had fallen short of government expectations in the first quarter, put added pressure on Sarkozy to make good on his pledge to shock the country out of its economic doldrums.

Sarkozy, 52, takes over on Wednesday from Chirac who will welcome him to the Elysee presidential palace during a formal ceremony and hand over the launch codes of the French nuclear arsenal.

Chirac, who steps down after 12 years in office, was due to make a televised address later Tuesday to bid farewell to the nation before beginning life as a private citizen.

The 74-year-old leader is planning to set up a foundation devoted to saving the environment and promoting a dialogue of cultures and will take up residence with his wife Bernadette in a chic apartment overlooking the Louvre museum.

The apartment is being lent by the family of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a close personal friend of the outgoing president who was murdered in 2005.

After Sarkozy's handover ceremony, the new president will on Wednesday afternoon head straight to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in keeping with a tradition for newly-elected French presidents.

On Thursday he is expected to name former social affairs minister Francois Fillon, 53, as prime minister. Fillon is seen as a calm and competent operator who successfully negotiated reforms to the pensions system in 2003.

With the full cabinet expected to be announced Friday, several tips for  ministerial posts are circulating in the Paris rumour mill.

The talk of bringing in leftwingers has been welcomed by many as a sign of openness but it has also been criticised by the Socialists as well as within Sarkozy's own ranks.

Former Socialist environment minister Elisabeth Guigou denounced leftwingers who might be tempted by a ministerial post as "complicit in a manoeuvre aimed simply and purely at wiping out the left in the legislative elections." 


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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