France's Hollande ejects rebel minister Montebourg from cabinet

France
# 25 August 2014 20:10 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. French President Francois Hollande on Monday called for a cabinet reshuffle, evicting from his government rebel leftist ministers who had argued for an economic policy U-turn away from budgetary rigor, APA reports quoting Reuters.

The surprise move - which risks triggering a confrontation between the new government and the hard left - came a day after outspoken Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg attacked euro zone powerhouse Germany for ruining the region's economy with what he called an "obsession" with the policies of economic austerity.

Montebourg did not wait for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to announce a new cabinet, which he is scheduled to do on Tuesday, before stepping up his attacks and declaring he and two other left-wing ministers would not seek roles in it.

"The whole world is begging us to put an end to these absurd austerity policies which are burying the euro zone deeper and deeper in recession and which will soon end up with deflation," he told a news conference at the French finance ministry.

"We must have the intellectual and political courage to acknowledge that austerity policies are making deficits worse instead of narrowing them," Montebourg said before walking out of the room to the applause of his staff.

It will be the second change of government by the unpopular Hollande in as many years in office and comes barely five months after a first reshuffle intended to promote a more pro-business line. Critics called for new elections and Le Monde daily titled its editorial "The Last Chance of the President".

The fate of Montebourg, who has long argued that deficit-cutting should not be a priority with stagnant French growth and unemployment stuck at over 10 percent, had been sealed early in the day with a terse statement from Hollande's office.

NEW CABINET ON TUESDAY

"The head of state asked (Prime Minister Manuel Valls) to form a team that supports the objectives he has set out for the country," said the statement issued after Valls presented his government's resignation to the president.

Hollande's objectives are to revive the euro zone's second largest economy with tax cuts while slowly reining in its public deficit by trimming spending.

France has lagged other euro zone economies in emerging from a recent slowdown, fuelling frustration over Hollande's leadership, both within his Socialist party and further afield.

Montebourg said fellow left-wingers Benoit Hamon and Aurelie Filipetti, who hold the education and culture portfolios respectively, were also stepping down. Filipetti separately signaled she did not want a post in the new government.

Hollande's decision to part company with Montebourg, viewed as a potential presidential rival, raises the risk that the ousted minister may try to take with him rebel lawmakers to deprive the president of the parliamentary majority he needs to implement reforms.

Opposition conservatives, who for weeks have been embroiled in their own leadership rows, called for an outright dissolution of parliament, as did the far-right National Front.

"With half of the presidential mandate already gone, it doesn't bode well for the ability of the president, or whatever government he chooses, to take key decisions," said former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, one of handful of hopefuls for the conservative ticket in the 2017 presidential election.

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