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New French government under fire from left and right

French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday
French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s reshuffled cabinet drew criticism from the Socialist government’s opponents after its composition was announced on Tuesday. The choice of banker Emmanuel Macron as economy minister angered the left, while the right had new education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in their sights.

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The appointment of Macron, a former investment banker, was seen as a “provocation” by the left of the Socialist Party, already smarting after the departure of his predecessor Arnaud Montebourg, as well as former education minister Benoît Hamon and culture minister Aurélie Filipetti.

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Laurent Baumel, one of the rebels who have come out against the government’s austerity policy, said as much, while another MP, Jean-Marc Germain, tweeted that “Putting a financier in charge of industry while our country is suffering in the grip of finance is not a bad sign.”

Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent declared that it signalled policies that would be “more right-wing than ever”, predicting that the government is leading the country into a “dangerous impasse”.

Emmanuelle Cosse of the Green Party, EELV, whose members quit the government during the previous reshuffle five months ago, said the appointment was a rejection of calls for a change of line from a “large part of the left that helped François Hollande to win in 2012”.

There was a perhaps unwelcome echo of the left’s criticisms from the far-right Front National.

The choice of Macron “makes the domination of high finance official”, declared its vice-president Florian Philippot, faithful to party leader Marine Le Pen’s line of combining agitation on social issues with its traditional anti-immigrant stance.

Trade unions were also critical, Force Ouvrière leader Jean-Claude Mailly insisting that the government is committed to austerity policies and predicting that the tendency would be reinforced.

Business leaders on the other hand were not rushing to any conclusions, according to Pierre Gattaz, of the bosses’ union Medef.

“Emmanuelle Cosse has three advantages; he knows about business, he knows about the market economy and he knows about globalisation,” he acknowledged, but added that he wanted to see results before passing judgement.

The mainstream right had little to say about Cosse but Najat Vallaud-Belkacem’s promotion to education ruffled feathers among its most conservative elements.

Luc Chatel, who was education minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, welcomed the appointment of a woman to the job for the first time but called on her to “clear up certain ambiguities”, notably the supposed “gender theory” that hardline Catholics claim is to be taught in schools.

One of them, Christine Boutin of the small Christian Democrat party, called the nomination an “intolerable provocation”, while UMP MP Eric Ciotti, like Boutin a vocal opponent of the government’s gay marriage law, accused her of being the “spokesperson of a dangerous ideology”.

As for the public, if an opinion poll published on Wednesday is to be believed, they think the government line will be neither fair nor clear nor effective.

In the Odoxa institute poll, 77 per cent said they believed the Valls2 government’s economic policy would not be fair, 80 per cent it would not be clear and 82 per cent it would not be effective.
 

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