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Government reshuffle as France braces itself for strikes

Photo: Reuters

After a humiliating defeat in the French regional elections President Nicolas Sarkozy sacked a minister and reshuffled his government, while planned strikes on Tuesday will put further pressure on the increasingly unpopular president. Workers will take to the streets to protest about unemployment, wages, the high cost of living and planned changes to the pension system.

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Labour Minister Xavier Darcos was replaced by Budget Minister Eric Woerth, and François Baroin replaced Woerth, in Sarkozy’s minor reshuffle on Monday. There was also the appointment of a new youth minister and new junior labour minister.

Sarkozy’s ruling UMP only managed to win one region in Sunday’s second-round poll, giving the president “a big wake-up call for quick and effective action," Claude Guéant, the president’s chief of staff told the AFP news agency.

There were also signs of a rebellion emerging within the Sarkozy’s UMP. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former prime minister, called for a vote of confidence in the president over his reforms.

And one of Sarkozy’s most bitter rivals, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, said he would form a political party to challenge Sarkozy in 2012’s presidential elections.

Cities across France face disruption on Tuesday as trade unions plan strikes against government reforms. Sarkozy wants to raise retirement age and change public sector pensions.

Early on Tuesday, 35 per cent of France’s high-speed train network (TGV) was disrupted by industrial action. The metro in Paris was experiencing some interruption with one out of four trains cancelled.

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