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Updated: November 14, 2010 15:58 IST

New French government expected under Fillon

AP
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French Prime Minister Francois Fillon enters his car as he leaves the Elysee Palace, after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. File photo: AP.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon enters his car as he leaves the Elysee Palace, after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. File photo: AP.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reappointed Francois Fillon as prime minister on Sunday and asked him to create a new government.

The unpopular French president had been expected for months to make changes to his government ahead of 2012 presidential elections but doing so on the weekend was highly unusual.

Mr. Fillon resigned on Saturday night, a required step before any new government can be put in place, likely later Sunday.

He quickly spelled out his priorities. In a statement shortly after being renamed to the prime minister’s post, he said that this “new phase” would focus on strengthening growth to create jobs, promoting solidarity and assuring security for all French.

The conservative Mr. Sarkozy said in June that he planned to change the Cabinet once a reform of the pension system was adopted. The reform raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 became law on Wednesday after weeks of strikes around France, including at oil refineries and depots that starved the country of fuel.

“Since 2007, despite the challenges, resistance, attacks, the president of the Republic has remained faithful to his reformist goals,” Mr. Fillon said.

The strikes battered the image of Mr. Sarkozy who has had record low poll ratings despite the broad mandate to reform that he received when elected in 2007. It is assumed that in naming a new government he will try to create a solid base for the 2012 presidential elections, though he has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

The popularity of Mr. Fillon, who has led the government since Mr. Sarkozy took office in May 2007, has consistently been several notches above that of Mr. Sarkozy despite his dry, businesslike aura.

France has had several “mini” Cabinet shuffles under Mr. Sarkozy, the latest in March. The biggest changes were made in June 2007, a month after the president took office, triggered by legislative election defeats.

Mr. Sarkozy’s popularity has been at a steady low. A poll published on Monday gave him a ranking of 35 percent. Mr. Fillon garnered a 48 percent positive ranking in the poll of 952 people by the LH2 firm. No margin of error was available but it would normally be plus or minus three percentage points for that number polled.

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