Reshuffle: Baroin takes over as Finance Minister
The former number two at the Finance Ministry, Francois Baroin, has taken over from his previous boss, Christine Lagarde.
The reshuffle by President Nicolas Sarkozy took place yesterday after Lagarde was confirmed as the new director of the IMF in Washington.
Taking his place as Budget Minister is Valerie Pécresse, who has served as Higher Education Minister since 2007. Her post will be taken by Laurent Wauqiez.
The reshuffle has pushed up a number of the younger rising stars in the government which continues to be headed by Prime Minister François Fillon. Three centrists have also been given ministerial posts, in a move designed to give the party a broader appeal as next year’s elections approach.
With less than one year left until the next presidential elections, the Finance Minister role is a critical appointment. With France still slowly emerging from the recession, the question of the economy will be crucial.
46-year old Baroin has held a number of ministerial positions, serving as minister for France’s overseas territories from 2005 and briefly as Interior Minister in 2007. He is very close to former President Jacques Chirac who has been a mentor to him since his father, a close friend, died in 1987. It is believed that this close relationship initially prevented him from being given a ministerial post by Nicolas Sarkozy when he took office in 2007. He has been seen as a solid performer since he took his position in the Finance Ministry last year.
Other younger winners in the reshuffle include Valerie Pécresse and Laurent Wauqiez. 43-year old Pécresse is the fluent English speaking former Higher Education Minister. 36-year old Wauqiez moves from his job as European Affairs Minister to take over her old role.
A surprise move in the reshuffle was the appointment of a former Olympic judo champion, David Douillet, to the newly-created role of minister for French citizens living abroad. The President has been keen to stay close to French ex-pats who, polls suggest, are more likely to vote for his UMP party than the opposition Socialists.
The main loser was Bruno Le Maire, the Agriculture Minister believed to a be a favourite of the President and who had been widely tipped to take over the Finance Minister job. He remains in the same role.
The reshuffle is likely to be the last before next year’s elections start in April.