Sarkozy appoints François Fillon as Prime Minister of France

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Thursday, May 17, 2007 File:Francois fillon1.jpg

François Fillon.
Image: ie.htm Photography Service of the Prime Minister.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

The new President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed François Fillon to head the new French government. Fillon's predecessor Dominique de Villepin stepped down yesterday, and formally handed over the post during a ceremony today.

The nomination did not come as a surprise after the British newspaper the Financial Times had reported on May 8 that Sarkozy had introduced Fillon to Tony Blair in a telephone conversation.

François Fillon (53) has been the political advisor of Sarkozy in the UMP for the past 2 years, and he was Sarko's campaign leader during the recent presidential elections. Fillon has experience in negotiating with the trade unions, having undertaken controversial reforms of the 35-hour workweek and the pension system. Sarkozy in his inauguration speech on Wednesday reiterated his plans to reform the French labour and social system, and Fillon will have to oversee these reforms as the new Prime Minister. Sarkozy said he wants to make the economy more flexible and lessen social tensions.

Cquote1.svg I expect I'll end up being the first French premier with a Welsh wife. Cquote2.svg

—François Fillon on the phone with Tony Blair, according to the Financial Times.

The Guardian reported that Fillon is an Anglophile; his wife Penelope Clarke, with whom he has 5 children, was born in Wales. Ideologically, Fillon is being described as a moderate left-leaning member of the conservative UMP party.

Fillon had his first experience as a minister in 1993 when he became Minister for the Higher education and Research under PM Édouard Balladur. He later became Minister for the Post office, Telecommunications and Space, then Minister for the social Affairs, Work and Solidarity, and finally Minister for national Education, the Higher education and Research. At the university, he studied public law and political sciences.

Sarkozy might announce his cabinet of 15 ministers as early as Friday, half of which are going to be women, he said. Fillon will lead the UMP in the parliamentary elections next month. A poll on Wednesday predicted a 1.5% increase in votes for the UMP, up to 40%, compared to 28% status-quo for the allied socialists.

Reports say that Sarkozy has offered the foreign minister post to Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, who is seen as being on the left in French politics.

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