French president's ex-partner wins cabinet post

PARIS – France’s embattled Socialist government revealed 16 new cabinet ministers on Wednesday, including the ex-partner of beleaguered president, Francois Hollande.

Segolene Royal, President Hollande's former partner and mother of his four children, was named as environment and energy minister. She was the Socialist candidate in France’s 2007 presidential election but lost to the eventual winner, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The new ministers were announced following a two-hour meeting at the Elysee Palace between Hollande and his new prime minister, Manuel Valls. The secretaries of state will be announced by next week. 

Hollande described the new set-up as “fighting government”.

Some of former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's cabinet members have retained their places, others were replaced by some of their co-ministers or newcomers.

Finance minister, Pierre Moscovici was replaced with former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg who will be responsible for the Industry and Economy portfolio; Michel Sapin will take charge of Finance.

Bernard Cazeneuve takes over from Valls at the Interior Ministry.

Another newcomer is Francois Rebsamen, mayor of Dijon, as Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Dialogue. Benoit Hamon, who represents the left-wing of the Hollande’s Socialist Party, will be in charge of education,

Laurent Fabius stays as Foreign Affairs minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian at defence, Christiane Taubira at justice and Marisol Touraine as health minister.

Stephane Le Foll, a Hollande loyalist, remains Minister of Agriculture and also became government spokesperson replacing Najat Vallaud-Belkacem who retains her position as Minister for Women.

The new cabinet has no environmentalist EELV party members after two Green ministers – Cecile Duflot and Pascal Canfin – resigned from Ayrault's government claiming Valls was too right-wing. The EELV has indicated it will pull out of its coalition with the Socialists.

President Hollande left for Brussels for an EU-Africa summit before the new cabinet was unveiled.

Earlier on Tuesday, Valls also appointed Véronique Bédague-Hamilius as Cabinet director, making her the first woman to hold this post.

Spanish-born Valls was appointed prime minister on Monday in a government reshuffle after the ruling Socialists' heavy defeat in local elections on Sunday.

Fulfilling electoral pledges to boost economic growth in France through lower taxes and cutbacks in public spending will be one of Valls’ and his new cabinet's main challenges.

The prime minister is due to address MPs at the French National Assembly next Tuesday.

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