Hollande to 'act' as French government reshuffle talk grows

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 25, 2014 4:24 PM

By Julien Ponthus and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande will act soon in response to his Socialist Party's poor showing in municipal elections, a presidential source said on Tuesday, amid growing talk of an imminent reshuffle of government ministers.

"In April there will need to be an expression and an action," said the source.

Events should not be driven by a calendar, the source said, but "we cannot wait until the end of May" (after the May 25 European elections).

With turnout at a record low of just over 60 percent, Hollande's Socialist Party won just 38 percent of the national vote in the election at the weekend, behind 47 percent for the opposition conservatives.

Voters also put the anti-immigrant National Front (FN) in power in one former Socialist town hall. A second run-off round of voting next weekend could produce more FN-controlled town halls.

The results are seen as punishment for the Hollande government's failure to cut unemployment and a reflection of Hollande's personal popularity at record lows in opinion polls.

The source would not make clear whether any reshuffle would include changing the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

But if Hollande is going to change his team in April, he has a very small window of opportunity in which to do so if a new government is going to present his plan for meeting the European Union's deficit reducing stability pact and the government's own responsibility pact aimed at reducing social costs for businesses. Both are due by April 15.

The satirical weekly Canard Enchaine's Wednesday edition asks "Reshuffle, don't reshuffle, a lot, a little?" and noted what it called Hollande's "radio silence" since the election.

Members of Hollande's own government have also called for a shake-up. "Obviously there will have to be an evolution, a change," said Employment Minister Michel Sapin, speaking on French radio on Tuesday.

Officials at the Elysee presidential palace declined to comment.

(Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Janet Lawrence)