Sarkozy government resigns ahead of Hollande handover
PARIS, May 11 — The conservative government of outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy resigned yesterday, paving the way for Socialist president-elect Francois Hollande to take office on May 15.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon delivered a letter of resignation to the presidential palace, although he will handle government business until Hollande is sworn in on Tuesday, Sarkozy’s office said.
Fillon, who took office on May 17, 2007, was the second-longest continually serving prime minister of modern France after Georges Pompidou, who headed the government from April 14, 1962 to July 10, 1968.
Hollande is due to reveal the name of his prime minister shortly after he is sworn in. He will then travel to Berlin within hours to launch his push to balance German-imposed austerity policies in Europe with pro-growth elements.
Late on Wednesday, he will unveil his choice of government ministers.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, a former teacher and leader of the Socialists in parliament, is often cited as a possible prime minister as is Martine Aubry, a former labour minister who was the architect of France’s 35-hour workweek policy.
However, ex-finance minister and long-time Hollande friend Michel Sapin could also be tapped to head the government if he does not return to the Finance Ministry, with the head of the parliament’s public finance committee, Jerome Cahuzac, also cited as a possible finance or budget minister.
Hollande was elected on Sunday in a runoff vote with 51.6 per cent of the vote to 48.4 per cent for Sarkozy, whom voters punished for a stagnant economy, steadily rising unemployment and a showy and abrasive personal style.
Sarkozy’s defeat leaves his conservative UMP party on the back foot ahead of a parliamentary election on June 10 and 17 with the far-right National Front eager to pick up some of its voters on the right.
Sarkozy has said he will no longer play an active role in politics. Le Figaro newspaper reported yesterday that he may return to being a lawyer, his profession before politics, and exercise his right as a former president to sit at the Constitutional Council, France’s highest constitutional body.
His withdrawal from the political scene could leave a power vacuum at the heart of the UMP, especially if Fillon and party head Jean-Francois Cope cannot contain their rivalry and agree on the future direction of the party. — Reuters