French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has resigned after a disastrous election for his Socialist Party in France. Manuel Valls, a self-proclaimed economic realist, is in. French president Francois Hollande has proven a disaster. No surprise. He is unlikely to look better down the line. If the Socialist Party were smart, it would send Hollande on his way now and move Valls into the top slot. Due in large measure to Socialist ineptitude, France is in a precarious financial and competitive position and must reverse course fast in order to prevent a Thelma and Louise styled travesty. The Guardian’s Kim Willsher reports:
Jean-Marc Ayrault, who had led the French cabinet since the left came to power in 2012, announced he would go after a day of feverish speculation over a ministerial reshuffle. The announcement, confirmed by Ayrault’s office at Matignon, came two hours before Hollande was due to make a televised announcement.
Speaking for the first time since the election rout on Sunday, the president said: “It’s an important moment in our national life. You have expressed your unhappiness and disappointment. I have heard your message – it’s clear. Not enough change, not enough jobs, too much unemployment, too many taxes … and the question about our ability to address these problems. I have taken this message personally. I will respond with honesty and clarity …
“Jean-Marc Ayrault has made reforms that are an honour to him. I am grateful to him. I have given Manuel Valls the job of running the government.”
Valls’ blunt speaking and naked ambition have led to him being compared to former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Known as France’spremier flic (top cop) for his tough stance on crime and security issues, his appointment risks splitting the government, threatening to alienate those on the left of the Socialist party and ministers from the EuropeEcologie Les Verts (Green and Ecology party), which holds two posts. Cécile Duflot, the housing minister and party leader, had warned she would leave the government if Valls were appointed.
After Black Sunday it was a Grey Monday as Hollande struggled to limit the unprecedented damage to his leadership and administration following the elections, amid calls from the jubilant opposition for “power-sharing”.
The deeply unpopular president had been urged by members of his own party and the opposition centre-right UMP to act swiftly and decisively in response to what was seen as a vote of no confidence in his government.