French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Cazeneuve ap­pointed PM Valls quits to run for pres­i­dent

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve was ap­pointed as the new prime min­is­ter yes­ter­day af­ter Manuel Valls re­signed to seek the So­cial­ist nom­i­na­tion in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Cazeneuve, who has over­seen the se­cu­rity forces’ re­ac­tion to a string of ji­hadist at­tacks that have killed more than 230 peo­ple in France over the past two years, will take con­trol of the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment un­til the elec­tion in May.

The widely-re­spected for­mer lawyer was named to the post af­ter Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande ac­cepted Valls’s res­ig­na­tion yes­ter­day. Cazeneuve, 53, has served in var­i­ous gov­ern­ment roles, in­clud­ing bud­get min­is­ter and min­is­ter in charge of Euro­pean af­fairs, be­fore be­com­ing in­te­rior min­is­ter in April 2014. Bruno Le Roux, leader of the So­cial­ists in the lower house of par­lia­ment, will take over the in­te­rior port­fo­lio. The mini-reshuf­fle comes af­ter Valls, who has been prime min­is­ter for the past two-and-a-half years, said on Mon­day he would step down to con­test a left­wing pri­mary in Jan­uary. The 54-year-old quit the gov­ern­ment to de­vote him­self to the pres­i­den­tial race, in which polls cur­rently show him trail­ing in fifth place over­all. An­nounc­ing his can­di­dacy on Mon­day, he vowed to take on the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and the far-right Na­tional Front led by Ma­rine Le Pen. His an­nounce­ment came four days af­ter Hol­lande said he would bow out af­ter a sin­gle term, paving the way for his di­vi­sive pre­mier to try to be­come the left’s new stan­dard bearer.

Far-right ‘at the gates’

“My can­di­dacy is one of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Valls said in a speech from his po­lit­i­cal base in the gritty Paris sub­urb of Evry. The far right, which was beaten in Aus­tria’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion at the week­end, was “at the gates of power” in France with a na­tion­al­ist pro­gram that would “ruin” the poor, he warned. Polls show Le Pen and con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Fran­cois Fil­lon far out in front in the open­ing round of the elec­tion on April 23, with Fil­lon ex­pected to beat Le Pen in May’s sec­ond round.

Valls would crash out with 10 per­cent if he won the nom­i­na­tion-be­hind Fil­lon, Le Pen, cen­trist for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter Em­manuel Macron and the Com­mu­nist-backed Jean-Luc Me­len­chon, an Ifop-Fidu­cial poll showed yes­ter­day. On Mon­day, Valls at­tacked Fil­lon, a self-de­clared Thatcherite, ac­cus­ing him of re­hash­ing “the old recipes of the 1980s”. “We’re told that Fran­cois Fil­lon is the next pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic. Noth­ing is set in stone,” he said de­fi­antly.

Crowded field

Span­ish-born Valls, whose fam­ily fled Franco’s dic­ta­tor­ship to France when he was a teenager, faces an uphill battle to unite his camp. He will go up against seven other can­di­dates in the two-round pri­mary on Jan­uary 22 and 29, in­clud­ing Ar­naud Mon­te­bourg, an­other for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter from a left­ist So­cial­ist fac­tion. Many on the left see Valls as a rightwinger af­ter he used de­crees to force through la­bor re­forms and called for du­al­na­tional ter­ror con­victs to be stripped of their French na­tion­al­ity. His stern line on sec­u­lar­ism and Is­lam has also turned off many life­long So­cial­ists. Last sum­mer, he waded into the de­bate on the Is­lamic “burkini”, declar­ing the full­body swim­suit “not com­pat­i­ble” with French val­ues. But the black­est mark on his can­di­dacy could be his gov­ern­ment’s bleak eco­nomic record. Le Pen has dis­missed him as the un­pop­u­lar Hol­lande’s “dou­ble”. When Valls last sought the So­cial­ist nom­i­na­tion five years ago, he gar­nered only 5.6 per­cent. For­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Benoit Ha­mon, one of his challengers in the pri­mary, said yes­ter­day that faced with a ris­ing hard right, the So­cial­ists needed to pick some­one who rep­re­sented “a proper left”. “It seems to me that he (Valls) can­not em­body the fu­ture of the left,” Ha­mon said. — AFP

PARIS: French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls (left) and French In­te­rior min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve leav­ing the weekly cabi­net meet­ing at the El­y­see pres­i­den­tial Palace in Paris. French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve was ap­pointed as the new prime min­is­ter yes­ter­day af­ter Manuel Valls re­signed to seek the So­cial­ist nom­i­na­tion in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. — AFP

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