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Under-Fire Hollande Reshuffles Cabinet to Save Political Skin

© REUTERS / Philippe WojazerFrench President Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande - Sputnik International
French President Francois Hollande has conducted a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle in order to position himself for the launch of his campaign for another term in next year's election, despite a poor showing in opinion polls over his general leadership.

Hollande is struggling to maintain any sense of leadership as his approval rating slumped as low as 12 percent since he came to power in 2012 with 79 percent of the French saying they are dissatisfied with his performance as president, in a recent poll. 

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He enjoyed a surge in popularity following the Charlie Hebdo and November 13 attacks, but this reflected more on his role as president of a country gripped by terror than his personal rating.

Hollande's failure to tackle his domestic economic and unemployment issues have left the country in a darkened mood. Unemployment is nearing 4 million, there is considerable industrial unrest — not least within Air France which has been losing money hand-over-fist for years. A pilots' strike has added to the airline's woes and has announced 2,900 job losses.

Hollande's central problem has been his lack of authority in dealing with the country's fiscal policies. He promised — in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election — to balance the books. In this he has failed by not implementing reforms.

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His counterterrorism measures — which included extending the state of emergency, allowing for considerable extra police and surveillance powers — proved too much for many, who saw this as an intrusion into French liberties. His justice minister Christiane Taubira resigned over the issue.

He has now brought in to his cabinet his former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault as France's new foreign minister, replacing Laurent Fabius, instead of his widely-touted ex-partner, environment minister Segolene Royal, the mother of Hollande's four children. She, however, gets an extended environment portfolio.

Importantly for Hollande, Ayrault was succeeded as prime minister by Manuel Valls, who the Green Party blamed for pulling the government toward the political right. The Greens refused to take part in the government after the appointment of Valls.

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It is significant that Hollande has now named the leader of the French Green Party, Emmanuelle Cosse, as housing minister, in what many see as an attempt to shore up support from the party for his 2017 presidential bid.

He has also appointed Green Party lawmakers, Barbara Pompili and Jean-Vincent Place, as secretaries of state. By bringing on the Greens and reshuffling his cabinet, Hollande is attempting to reach out to a wider constituency, in an effort to improve his image. And his chances of becoming president again next year.

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