It is all change in Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet, with a major reshuffle giving the French President’s governing team a new look.
Notably absent from the revised line-up is Rachida Dati. Having fallen from grace at the justice ministry, she is off to the European Parliament to take up a seat there. Her surprise replacement is Michele Alliot-Marie, France’s Interior Minister since May 2007. That key portfolio will now be entrusted to one of the conservative French leader’s closest confidantes, Brice Hortefeux – even though he, like Dati, was elected an MEP earlier this month. Not surprisingly, the game of musical chairs has left the opposition Socialists unimpressed. “This does not look like a change of direction at a time when France needs a policy change to face up to the economic crisis,” said Socialist Party National Secretary Harlem Desir, suggesting that, in fact, a more hardline stance on social issues now lies ahead. The most high-profile recruit is Frederic Mitterrand, a relative of the late Francois Mitterrand. He becomes Culture Minister, replacing Christine Albanel. According to Noel Mamere, a leading member of parliament for the Green Party, the former Socialist President must be turning in his grave at his nephew’s agreement to govern with Nicolas Sarkozy. Another move making the headlines is the demotion of Human Rights Minister Rama Yade. Her job effectively has disappeared and she has now been handed the Sports portfolio.