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Europe

Reshuffled French cabinet leans to the right

Less than a day after resigning, French Prime Minister Fillon announced a restructured cabinet after being reappointed to his post by President Sarkozy. One former French political heavyweight received a minister post.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Fillon

Sarkozy reappointed Fillon and many of his previous ministers

Following the resignation of French Prime Minister Francois Fillon's administration on Saturday, Fillon unveiled a reshuffled cabinet on Sunday. He was put back in his post as prime minister by President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier in the day.

The new government is slightly more in line with Sarkozy's political direction and features appointees loyal to Sarkozy and fellow members of the Union for a Popular Movement party. There are 31 ministers in the new team, compared with 37 before.

The move had been expected after Sarkozy announced in June that he would appoint a new cabinet once a controversial pension reform raising the country's minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 was passed. Following weeks of strikes and protests, that reform was signed into law last week.

Sarkozy reappointed Fillon to his post as prime minister earlier in the day on Sunday. While many of the resigned cabinet members were brought back in the shake-up, some new faces have shifted the cabinet slightly to the right.

Gathering allies

A map of France with the French flag in the background with falling survey lines

Sarkozy has seen his approval rating drop

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux remained in their former jobs, but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was replaced by former Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

As the life partner of the new junior minister in charge of parliamentary relations, Patrick Ollier, Alliot-Marie made history for the Fifth Republic as half of the first couple to serve as ministers in the same government.

Meanwhile, speculation that former French prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppe, would become defense minister replacing Herve Morin was also confirmed.

"France needs pluralism, and democracy needs balance," said Morin, who is considering running against Sarkozy in 2012. "Since April 2010 the head of state has not agreed with this proposition, and so for my part I can't remain in government."

Center-right Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo - the number two figure in the outgoing government and until recently a frontrunner for the prime minister's office - announced he was stepping down.

Observers consider the new cabinet a political maneuver to put Sarkozy in a better position for re-election in 2012, although he has not yet declared that he will be running.

Sarkozy's ratings in France have taken a plunge due to the unpopular pension reforms.

Critics in the opposition

Opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry criticized the new cabinet, saying Sarkozy did not implement the political change the French people want.

"The president has brought back the same prime minister to carry on the same politics," Aubry said in a statement. "Mr. Sarkozy announced this reshuffle six months ago. Since then, the ministers have been more interested in the future of their posts than the future of the French people."

Author: Matt Zuvela, David Levitz (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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