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Greens rebel against France's new PM Valls

The Local/AFP · 2 Apr 2014, 08:45

Published: 02 Apr 2014 08:45 GMT+02:00

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France's Green party wasted no time in making it clear to President François Hollande what they thought of his choice of Manuel Valls for new prime minister by refusing to join his government, that is set to be named on Wednesday.

Hollande's appointment of Valls, was generally seen as a good move by the public and a last throw of the dice for the president, but the new prime minister, whose style and politics have been compared to those of former British premier Tony Blair, have alienated more left-leaning members of the Socialist Party.

The Green EELV party have already jumped ship, announcing late on Tuesday that "EELV refuses to participate in a Valls government".

Aside from a bleak economic reality, Valls also faces the challenge of ironing out divisions within the French left, particularly those who feel that the Socialists have adopted a pro-business stance at the expense of social issues.

Even before the EELV leadership decided to stay out of the new government, its ministers Cecile Duflot and Pascal Canfin had already said they would not take part.

In a bid to ease concerns, Valls said Tuesday he would go "further" and "faster" as prime minister but acknowledged the demands for "social justice".

Exactly who will be included in his new government is unclear, but there is speculation that the mother of Hollande's four children, Segolene Royal, will be recalled from the political wilderness to take part.

Frederic Dabi of the Ifop polling institute said the divisions should iron themselves out once a new government is formed, adding that Valls was likely to have more of a handle on his ministers than his predecessor.

"Jean-Marc Ayrault's personal image is not too damaged," said Dabi of the Ifop polling institute. "He appears pleasant, competent, serious, close to the people, but he had a leadership deficit on his ministers, there was the feeling that he didn't really manage his government."

He pointed to the widespread feeling among the French that the government flip-flopped on issues and did not lead the country with a firm hand at a challenging time.

"Through his personality, his dynamism... Manuel Valls could bring more leadership over his ministers," Dabi said.

Valls has to deal with "an economic context that has deteriorated sharply", said Dabi, with unemployment and a public deficit that remain stubbornly high after 22 months of Socialist rule.

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Growth, meanwhile, is almost non-existent and the exasperation of the French was reflected in Sunday's municipal polls that saw the Socialists lose a whopping 155 towns and cities to the main opposition and far right.

In a televised address on Monday, Hollande tasked Valls with implementing a package of pro-business policies known as the Responsibility Pact, which cuts taxes on firms that are widely viewed as hampering employment and growth, and imposes spending cuts of €50 billion ($69 billion).

He also asked him to set in motion a new "Solidarity Pact" that would include steps to boost spending on education and health and reduce personal income taxes.


The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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