The former mayor of Nantes, now Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault has named a provisional list of ministers. All are now required to run for office in June’s parliamentary elections. Should they lose, they will also lose their ministry appointments. That said, it seems as if the people on the list were chosen with care as likely winners.
Ayrault has named 34 ministers in total, 17 men and 17 women. Jeannette Bougrab — who served in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government as Secretary for Youth and Community Life — noted that François Hollande was following his predecessor’s example in bringing minority women into prominence.
The French think that there might be too many ministers with too many different ideologies. Laurent Fabius, to everyone’s surprise, found his way back in as Minister of Foreign Affairs. A graduate of both ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration) and Sciences-Po, he became Minister of the Budget in Mitterand’s administration in 1981. He was appointed Prime Minister in 1984, expanding family allowances for children and introducing subsidies for stay-at-home-parents. Despite these measures social inequality increased as did unemployment. Fabius stood down in 1986. Incidentally, he was Prime Minister during the ‘infected blood’ and Greenpeace Warrior scandals.
Fabius later served as Minister of Economy and Finance under Lionel Jospin’s premiership. He blotted his copybook with run-ins involving Jospin and Michel Rocard and later failed in his bid in the 2007 PS primaries, where Ségolène Royal came in first place and Dominique Strauss-Kahn second. Most on the Left consider Fabius a has-been and are disappointed by his return to government.
By contrast, a new minister on the scene is Cécile Duflot, charged with Equality in Environment and Housing (that’s how I’m translating l’égalité des territoires et au logement, anyway). Duflot is the militant Party Secretary of France’s Green Party (EELV). Her appointment comes as no surprise and it was widely thought that if Hollande won, he would give the Greens a ministry, even though they achieved only 2% of the vote in the first round on April 22.
I have heard Duflot interviewed all too often on RMC, where she seems to be flavour of the month. Her manner is chippy, if not aggressive — and not just when she has a point to make. She is married to Xavier Cantat, brother of Bernard Cantat of the band Noir Désir. Cantat is also a radical Green and in Duflot’s home town of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (Val-de-Marne, outside Paris) he works in the mayor’s office where he is responsible for Culture and Youth. Once known for its artists, sculptors and writers, the suburb is now known for its rappers Bambi Cruz and MC Solaar.
Like Duflot, Cantat has also appeared on RMC. He was a panellist on Les Grandes Gueules in February 2012, where he said, ‘I couldn’t care less about France. France is an accident of history. I feel no more French than I do Senegalese.’ I’m not sure how much Duflot would agree with that statement, but happily married couples do tend to align on these matters. One to watch.
In a stark contrast to the first Minister of Justice under Sarkozy — Rachida Dati, who upheld republican values (even when doing so made her unpopular) — Hollande and Ayrault’s choice is radical leftist (Parti Radical de Gauche [PRG]) Christiane Taubira. Taubira was born in Cayenne (French Guiana) and has served as Deputy for the territory since 1993. She also founded her own political party there — Walwari — which is aligned with the PRG and comes under the PS umbrella. (It appears she founded it with her ex-husband Roland Delannon.) Taubira also served as an MEP between 1994 and 1999.
In 2001, she was responsible for the eponymous and controversial law recognising the Atlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity. She also wrote a book entitled Slavery Explained to My Daughter. In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy invited her to report on the relationship between the EU and countries in the Caribbean, Pacific region and Africa. The result was a paper containing such endless criticism and unfounded presuppositions that Sarkozy was speechless and the Elysée, outraged by the content, shelved it. Even within the PS, her opinions are thought to be out of line with party ideology. Definitely one to watch.
Another controversial appointment is that of Manuel Valls as Secretary of the Interior. He and Tony Blair are not too far apart ideologically. Both favour a third way and are, as a result, distrusted.
RMC reported this morning that the police are very happy with Valls’s appointment and look forward to receiving more men and women in their ranks as well as better funding. They were fed up with Claude Guéant’s continuous and useless reforms; they just wanted to get on and do their jobs. (As much as I like Guéant, that was a shortcoming on his part.)
However, Valls is not without his critics. He has been mayor of the multicultural ‘new town’ of Evry (Essonne) since 2001. This brief YouTube clip shows him at the local market in 2009 dismissively greeting a constituent and lamenting the lack of ‘blancs, les whites, les blancos‘. He then tried to justify his comment to Valérie Trierweiler — now First Lady of France — by complaining that France Télévisions only showed that part of town:
No one liked that remark. Blogger Allain Jules and his diverse readership are suspicious of Valls’s intentions towards minorities. They are not alone:
Les blancos also disliked the remark. Some conservatives have pointed out that Valls, despite having relinquished his Spanish citizenship for French in 1982 (there was no dual nationality option at the time), still supports FC Barcelona and gives lip service to la République. One senses that his heart is still in España. Time will tell.
In his acceptance speech on May 6, François Hollande said that he wanted to ‘build a new French nation’. It looks as if he’s doing it, one minister at a time. I predict that his administration will be as fraught as those of his PS predecessors.