France's Sarkozy to reshuffle govt after poll defeat

Sarkozy met with his Prime Minister Francois Fillon to plan the cabinet reshuffle.

France's Sarkozy to reshuffle govt after poll defeat

French President Nicolas Sarkozy prepared on Monday to shake up his government after a humiliating defeat by the left in regional elections pressured him to recast his reform programme.

Sarkozy met with his Prime Minister Francois Fillon to plan the cabinet reshuffle, while tensions surfaced in his party, with former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin calling for a confidence vote on the president's reforms.

The reshuffle is certain to be more far-reaching than originally planned because of the scale of Sunday's defeat, which saw a resurgent left sweep 23 out of France's 26 regions.

The most exposed minister was Xavier Darcos, who heads the labour ministry and was set to lead negotiations with unions in the coming months on a reform of the costly pensions system.

Darcos stood in the regional vote, scoring just 28 percent against 56.3 percent for his Socialist opponent. The gap severely dented his credibility and political sources said his position in such an important ministry was untenable.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth, who has won plaudits for his calm manner and assured handling of complex dossiers, was frontrunner to replace him. He in turn looked set to be replaced by Francois Baroin, who is close to ex-President Jacques Chirac.

The left won some 54 percent of the vote on Sunday, its best election score since the birth of the fifth republic in 1958. The result gave the Socialists a strong launch pad for their assault on the presidency in 2012.

"This is a good success and we need to savour it ... but we won almost as many regions in the 2004 election and we didn't win the presidential election so we have to get organised," said former party chief and presidential hopeful, Francois Hollande.

The powerful CGT union has called for a day of protest over wages and pensions on Tuesday, hoping that the election loss will persuade the government not to pursue a raise in the retirement age beyond 60 years.

Sarkozy was elected in 2007 on promises to boost France's economy and get people back to work, but last year's recession has driven unemployment up to 10 percent, its highest level in a decade.

The next big hurdle on his agenda is a plan to raise the retirement age and reform the generous pensions of some public sector workers -- measures that looked set for tough resistance even before Sunday's defeat.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Mart 2010, 09:05

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