French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reacted to his centre-right bloc’s crushing defeat in regional elections by bringing into cabinet some of his fiercest internal critics.
Top of the list is Francois Baroin who is to be his new Budget Minister. His promotion is being seen as an effort to appease the old conservative guard within the UMP which feels its been over looked since Sarkozy swept to power in 2007. Baroin is a close political ally of ex-president Jacques Chirac.
The fall guy after the UMP’s drubbing has been Xavier Darcos. He had been set to lead negotiations over contested reform of the pensions system but his poor showing in Sunday’s regional ballot has wrecked his credibility. He has been replaced by Eric Woerth.
In a further effort to silence the sniping from the right of the party, Sarkozy has nominated Georges Tron as junior minister for the civil service. He’s a supporter of the former prime minister and Sarkozy’s sworn enemy Dominique De Villepin.
Bringing Tron on board deprives Villepin of an important ally who is expected to announce, later this week that he is setting up a rival centre-right party.
Sarkozy is likely to go for a more radical reshuffle closer to the 2012 presidential ballot. In the meantime the Socialist party and its allies are revelling in their best ever election score.