President Jacques Chirac of France reappointed his prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, on Tuesday but told him to form a new government after a crushing defeat in regional elections.
Chirac’s office said that Raffarin had tendered the government’s resignation and that the president had accepted it.
Then “he named Jean-Pierre Raffarin prime minister and charged him with forming a new government,” said a presidential statement.
The makeup of the new government would be announced Wednesday and the new cabinet would meet Friday morning, Chirac’s office said. That meeting may force Chirac to shorten a visit to Russia planned for Thursday and Friday.
The cabinet reshuffle had been expected after Sunday’s local elections, which saw the opposition left make spectacular gains midway through Chirac’s five-year term as president.
The announcement that Raffarin was being retained as prime minister put an end to mounting speculation that he would be forced out.
The announcement came after Chirac received Raffarin on Tuesday morning at his presidential ElysÃ©e Palace. They also met Monday, with Chirac’s office saying that the president was working with Raffarin “on decisions he must take in the very next days.”
Conservative politicians and members of the administration have said there will be no letup in the government’s program of economic reforms.
But pundits expect that the new cabinet will have ministers charged with paying greater attention to social issues – a response to critics of the government’s reforms of pensions and the health system, and to unemployment, which is running at nearly 10 percent.
Dominique Bussereau, a deputy transport minister who is among those being talked about for possible promotion, had indicated earlier Tuesday that Raffarin wasn’t finished yet.
Chirac may have decided to keep Raffarin on to see through reforms this summer to the creaking health insurance system – plans already drawing the left’s anger. Some suspect that Chirac may then ditch the unpopular prime minister to start afresh.0