New French government meets as critics slam election setback

Manuel Valls (C) with ministers (L-R) Bernard Cazeneuve, Arnaud Montebourg, Ségolène Royal, Valls, Christiane Taubira and François Rebsamen
Manuel Valls (C) with ministers (L-R) Bernard Cazeneuve, Arnaud Montebourg, Ségolène Royal, Valls, Christiane Taubira and François Rebsamen Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France's reshuffled government held its first meeting on Friday morning amid recriminations in the ruling Socialist Party over its poor showing in local council elections last weekend. The meeting was set to agree a "road map" ahead of new Prime Minister Manuel Valls's presentation of his policies to parliament on Tuesday.


Despite tensions in the ruling party, ministers showed a united front as they arrived at the Elysée presidential palace - Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Economy and Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg taking the trouble to arrive together in response to press speculation of personality clashes at the head of the economy ministry.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Other arrivals that got the cameras flashing included that of President François Hollande's ex-partner and former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal - the new ecology minister and one of only two new members of the government - and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira - who kept her job despite sniping from the right - arriving, as is her habit, on a yellow bicycle accompanied by two bodyguards.

Taubira on Thursday fired the three top members of her ministerial staff because of the row over whether and when she knew that investigators were tapping the phone of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Although Hollande has promised a "coherent and united" team, news of infighting leaked as soon as it was formed on Wednesday.

Montebourg was reported to be unhappy to have see the foreign trade and tourism portfolios shifted to the foreign affairs ministry, giving Laurent Fabius control of economic diplomacy.

There was criticism from outside, too, with former housing minister Cécile Duflot, whose Green party pulled out of the government when Valls was appointed, declaring that the new ecology minister was powerless given that the government's policies have not changed.

"I've was calling for a change of course for months," she told Libération newspaper. "I though the defeat [in local council elections] would force the executive to act."

Another former minister, Socialist Frédéric Cuvillier who was fired from transport, lashed out at the party's local election campaign.

Slamming a "total absence" of the party's apparatus in the campaign, he claimed that it has "no strategy" and chinted that national secretary Harlem Désir should resign, in Le Parisien newspaper.

Talking to the Médiapart website, former national secretary and parliamentary speaker Henri Emmanuelli called for Désir's resignation or an emergency national conference, claiming that the party is in a "deep coma".

The newly elected councils have been appointing mayors this week.

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