Wednesday, May 08, 2002
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By Vaiju Naravane
The announcement of the new Cabinet was repeatedly delayed because of tough behind-the-scenes bargaining by several would-be Ministers. The Government has less than 35 days before France goes to the polls again to elect a new legislature. Mr. Raffarin, working closely with the President, Jacques Chirac, is expected to adopt a flurry of new populist measures in order to seduce the public just prior to the June 9 and 16 legislative poll.
Mr. Chirac, who was elected on May 5 with over 80 per cent of the votes, has declared that the Government will focus on "action" to respond to demands spelled out by discontented electors. He is expected to announce tough new security measures, including the creation of detention centres for young offenders and an increase in the number of policemen and judges.
In an attempt to woo the business community, pensioners and the poor, the Government plans to lower corporate and income tax. Mr. Raffarin is also expected to relax legislation on the 35-hour work week introduced by the outgoing socialist government.
There were several long faces among close Chirac aides who were keen on cabinet posts but were politely told there was no place for them.
Others were sulking because their first choice was not granted. These included the new Minister for Security, Nicolas Sarkozy, an ambitious right-wing politician who had his eye on the Prime Minister's post. Philippe Douste Blazy, the Mayor of Toulouse, declined the Ministry of Education saying he would accept the post of Prime Minister and nothing else. Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin who ran Mr. Chirac's office had hoped to get the new Ministry of Security and the Interior. He is likely to get the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Francis Mer, the former director of the steel giant Arcelor, was offered the post of Economy Minister but reportedly turned it down. The sensitive portfolio of Defence is to go to a woman, Ms. Michele Alliot-Marie and has caused the former Interior Minister, Jean Louis Debre, to go into a monumental sulk.
The person pulling the strings behind the scenes is Mr. Chirac's eminence grise, former Prime Minister and Mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppe. Mr. Juppe, who was Prime Minister from 1995 to 1997, hopes to be the right-wing candidate for President in 2007.
Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, an old India hand, is tipped to become the new Foreign Minister.
Mr. de Villepin served in New Delhi in the Eighties as counsellor and was the French Embassy spokesman in Washington from 1984-89. The distinctly pro-India policies adopted by France in the past five years are largely credited to Mr. de Villepin.Another former India hand is expected to be recalled by the Government.
Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, who was in New Delhi in the mid-1980s and later served as head of the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe's cabinet between 1995 and 1997, is expected to return to France from his current post as Ambassador to Japan to take up a senior administrative position.
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