French President Nicholas Sarkozy has reshuffled his government, sacking Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defense Minister Herve Morin.
Of the key jobs in the French government, Prime Minister Francois Fillon stays. Sarkozy could not afford to let the premier go due to his popularity within the ruling party despite reported policy differences over linking immigration with crime, a Press TV correspondent reported on Sunday.
Christine Lagarde remains French finance minister and Brice Hortefeux keeps his position as the country’s interior minister.
The biggest loser is Sarkozy’s former side-kick, Bernard Kouchner, the 71-year-old foreign minister. A socialist by instinct and adopted by training, Kouchner has defended the president perhaps just once too often.
He publicly broke links with the government’s hard-line policies towards the Roma (gypsies.) “These people are exploited from all sides. That is the real problem and they are being turned into slaves,” Kouchner noted.
He has also been far more critical of Israel’s policies than Sarkozy. He said he was “profoundly shocked” by the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla in May, and demanded an inquiry into the attack on the aid ship, the Mavi Marmara.
“Nothing can justify the use of violence such as this, which we condemn,” Kouchner added. This is while Sarkozy merely called Israel’s attack on the ship “disproportionate.”
Michele Alliot-Marie former defense and justice minister is nominated minister for foreign and European affairs. Alliot-Marie, an ally of Sarkozy, who observes France’s Middle East policies, is far more in line with the president’s views.
Another cabinet member who has paid the price for speaking out is the defense minister, Herve Morin. He attended a commemoration ceremony at a mosque in Paris last week, honoring Muslims who died for France during the two world wars.
Alain Juppe, who served as prime minister under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, has been chosen to head the defense ministry.
Two ethnic minority figures, city minister Fadala Amara and sports minister Rama Yade, have also left office.
After numerous political scandals and sweeping reforms, such as raising the age of retirement and pension, Sarkozy’s approval rating has hit an all-time low of 32 percent.
Political analysts say the new government leans more to the right than the previous one and that Sarkozy is trying to shore up support within his own party before France’s 2012 general elections.