News / Europe

France's Hollande Eyes Minister Reshuffle

French President Francois Hollande stands outside the Elysee Palace as he waits for the arrival of a guest in Paris, May 7, 2013.
French President Francois Hollande stands outside the Elysee Palace as he waits for the arrival of a guest in Paris, May 7, 2013.
French President Francois Hollande has promised to weed out underperforming ministers as he strives to win back support from a public impatient over still unfulfilled promises to restore jobs and growth.

The Socialist Hollande, whose poll ratings are among the worst for a post-World War II French leader, told weekly magazine Paris Match his ministers would be judged on their results just as he has asked voters to do with him.

Hollande and his government have pleaded for time for reforms to bear fruit after his one-year anniversary in power was marked on Sunday by mass street protests. But he said he was prepared to legislate more by decree to get future measures into law faster, and would change his team to ensure economic reforms were implemented.
"At some point, choices and adjustments will have to be made," he told the magazine in comments published on Tuesday. "The reshuffle will happen when the time is right. What the French people want today are results. This team must produce results on employment, housing, consumption, education and France's place in the world. Everyone will be judged on their results - me above all."

A year into his term, Hollande's ratings have slumped faster than any other president's to as low as 25 percent. With the economy slipping into recession, he faces an uphill battle to meet a promise to halt by year-end a long climb in unemployment to 10.6 percent. Many voters who initially saw his consensus-seeking style as a welcome change from his all-controlling predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy now view him as lacking authority over a team where left-wingers such as anti-globalisation Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg clash openly with more centrist ministers.

French media have speculated that Montebourg could be at risk in a possible reshuffle that has been the talk of Paris political circles since former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac quit in March over a secret Swiss bank account.

Asked directly if Montebourg's popularity with left-wing voters protected him from being ejected from the government, Hollande replied: "No one is protected in the government. No one has immunity."
Supporters of Hollande say a recent labor law overhaul, aimed at making hiring and firing more flexible, and measures taken in November to ease labor costs amount to bigger reforms than any of his conservative predecessors attempted. Hollande said that to avoid the legislative tangles that can hold up new laws even despite his Socialist Party's majority in parliament, the government would start legislating more by decree, as it is doing in a push to get more housing built.

"A big lesson from my first year is that the legislative process is too slow for the needs of the French people and the demands of companies," he said. "We must act more quickly."

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