The long-awaited French government reshuffle has brought few surprises.
The prime minister Francois Fillon remains head of a team that maintains President Sarkozy’s closest allies in key positions, 18 months before the next presidential election.
Out go some prominent figures such as the centrist Jean-Louis Borloo, who had been tipped as a possible prime minister.
Out too goes the socialist foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, marking the end of Sarkozy’s openness towards political opponents.
The scandal-hit labour minister Eric Woerth leaves the government.
Instead a former prime minister Alain Juppe makes a dramatic return, expected to add political weight to Sarkozy’s anticipted re-election campaign.
Christine Lagarde will continue to attend world summits as finance minister.
Two more Sarkozy allies stay in the team: Michèle Alliot-Marie takes over as foreign affairs minister; the hardline Brice Hortefeux, known for his crackdown on immigrants, remains interior minister.
The president has named a team to go back on the offensive after the drama of the recent strikes and protests over pension reform.
The new law has been passed, but at a severe cost to Sarkozy’s personal approval ratings, which have hit an all-time low.
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