Sarkozy’s team is small in size, wide in scope

France’s new Cabi­net is half as big but more di­verse than any be­fore.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - By Se­bas­tian Rotella and Achrene Si­cakyuz

paris — Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy un­veiled a stream­lined Cabi­net of his­toric di­ver­sity and ide­o­log­i­cal scope Fri­day, ap­point­ing left­ists, cen­trists, an un­prece­dented pro­por­tion of women and France’s first pow­er­ful min­is­ter of North African de­scent.

The cen­ter-right pres­i­dent had raised ex­pec­ta­tions by promis­ing that his gov­ern­ment would be run by a tal­ented “dream team,” break­ing down bar­ri­ers of gen­der, eth­nic­ity and party pol­i­tics.

On Fri­day, seven women min­is­ters were named by Sarkozy, an un­prece­dented pro­por­tion of the Cabi­net, which was re­duced from 30 to 15 min­istries.

Sarkozy crossed party lines to name So­cial­ist Bernard Kouch­ner, a pop­u­lar hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tivist and founder of Doc­tors With­out Borders, as for­eign min­is­ter. The ap­point­ment, along with those of three left­ists named to ju­nior min­is­ter posts, was viewed as a strate­gic coup in­tended to widen Sarkozy’s po­lit­i­cal base and splin­ter an al­ready de­mor­al­ized So­cial­ist Party be­fore next month’s leg­isla­tive elec­tions.

The gov­ern­ment also fea­tured vet­eran lead­ers and well­known faces. Among them were Prime Min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon, a for­mer so­cial af­fairs min­is­ter emerg­ing as one of the pres­i­dent’s clos­est lieu­tenants, and Alain Juppe, a for­mer prime min­is­ter who was con­victed in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in 2004 that re­sulted in his be­ing barred from pol­i­tics for a year. Sarkozy put Juppe in charge of a “su­per-min­istry” over­see­ing en­vi­ron­ment and durable de­vel­op­ment.

Still, the Cabi­net has a new­gen­er­a­tion look aimed at shak­ing up what is widely seen as an in­bred and elit­ist rul­ing class. Per­haps the most dra­matic sym­bol: the choice of Rachida Dati, 41, as min­is­ter of jus­tice.

The French-born Dati grew up in a low-in­come hous­ing project, one of 12 chil­dren of an Al­ge­rian fa­ther and a Moroc­can mother. She worked as a magis- trate, ad­vised Sarkozy when he was in­te­rior min­is­ter and served as his cam­paign spokes­woman. She be­comes the first leader of North African de­scent to run a key min­istry in a so­ci­ety whose large pop­u­la­tion of im­mi­grants, pre­dom­i­nantly from Mus­lim back­grounds, has re­mained al­most in­vis­i­ble in the Cabi­net, leg­is­la­ture, cor­po­rate board­rooms and City Halls.

“I’m very moved. It’s a po­si­tion of real re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Dati told jour­nal­ists Fri­day, promis­ing to be “the jus­tice min­is­ter who re­stores the con­fi­dence of the French in the jus­tice sys­tem and will truly in­volve them in its mis­sion.”

The pre­ced­ing gov­ern­ment had a ju­nior min­is­ter for equal op­por­tu­nity who was of North African de­scent, but even that min­is­ter ac­knowl­edged that it was a largely sym­bolic and mar­ginal post.

The top wo­man in the new gov­ern­ment is Michele Al­liotMarie, a for­mer de­fense chief. She will over­see law en­force­ment and intelligence agen­cies as min­is­ter of in­te­rior se­cu­rity.

Sarkozy also cre­ated a min­istry of im­mi­gra­tion and na­tional iden­tity, ful­fill­ing a cam­paign prom­ise to work harder at in­te­grat­ing im­mi­grants and in­cul­cat­ing them with French val­ues. He en­trusted that sen­si­tive task to a long­time lieu­tenant, Brice Horte­feux.

Sarkozy’s choice of de­fense min­is­ter was a blow to the camp of cen­trist Fran­cois Bay­rou, who won 6.8 mil­lion votes in the first round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion but is now watch­ing his sup­port evap­o­rate. The new de­fense chief is Herve Morin, who un­til re­cently served as par­lia­men­tary chief of Bay­rou’s po­lit­i­cal party.

In cut­ting the num­ber of min­istry posts, Sarkozy over­hauled the struc­ture of the gov­ern­ment to make it leaner and more agile as he pre­pares for an am­bi­tious pro­gram to trim taxes and bu­reau­cracy in an ef­fort to spur growth and em­ploy­ment.

The new struc­ture fuses pre­vi­ously sep­a­rate port­fo­lios such as health and sports. It also splits the econ­omy min­istry to cre­ate a bud­get port­fo­lio and a ma­jor new min­istry for eco­nomic strat­egy headed by Jean-Louis Bor­loo, a well-liked cen­trist who, along with Fil­lon, will play a lead role in high-stakes ne­go­ti­a­tions with la­bor unions, stu­dent groups and the left.

The op­po­si­tion as­sailed Sarkozy for se­lect­ing lead­ers from ri­val par­ties, with sev­eral So­cial­ists call­ing Kouch­ner a traitor. Lib­er­a­tion news­pa­per said Sarkozy was “con­fis­cat­ing all the po­lit­i­cal space for his own ben­e­fit.”

rotella@la­times.com

Jac­ques Brinon As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW FACE OF FRANCE:

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Rachida Dati be­comes the na­tion’s high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cial of North African de­scent. Women were named to lead seven of the 15 min­istries.

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