Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who has led France’s response to a deadly wave of terrorism, was named the country’s new prime minister on Tuesday.
He has been asked by President Francois Hollande to head the Socialist government until elections next spring. The unpopular Hollande has already announced he won’t be seeking a second term in office.
Cazeneuve, 53, has assumed a high-profile amid a state of emergency with more than 230 people killed in Islamist militant attacks in France since the start of 2015.
He will be replaced as interior minister by Bruno Le Roux, who until now was head of the Socialist Party group in the lower house of parliament.
A lawyer by training, Cazeneuve is nicknamed ‘the Cardinal’ by his own staff and by detractors on account of a cool and sometimes frosty manner.
He replaces Manuel Valls who formally quit as prime minister on Tuesday, to concentrate on running for the presidency. He hopes to secure the nomination in Socialist-led left-wing primaries to be held next month.
But even if he is selected, a new opinion poll suggests Valls, 54, would finish fifth in the presidential race.
Pollsters have for months predicted that the presidential battle in the second-biggest euro zone member will effectively boil down to a duel between conservative candidate Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-immigrant National Front.
Le Pen hopes to capitalise on a mood that has seen voters reject political elites to back Britain’s exit from the European Union and elect Donald Trump as US president, although polls suggest she would lose a run-off against Fillon.