President François Hollande is struggling to reshape his government after the departure of his Foreign Minister and a revolt by almost 100 Socialist deputies against plans to strip convicted terrorists of French citizenship.
Mr Hollande is expected to announce a final reshuffle on Thursday before the presidential elections next spring. The changes are meant to bolster his flagging hopes of re-election but may emphasise his growing estrangement within his own party.
The veteran Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, 69, confirmed that he is retiring from frontline politics to become president of France’s constitutional watchdog, the Conseil Constitutionnel. His departure, and that of the popular Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, have long been expected.
Attempts by Mr Hollande and the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, to bring new blood to the government have run into a series of obstacles. The former Socialist presidential candidate – and Mr Hollande’s former romantic partner – Ségolène Royal was originally tipped to leave the environment ministry to take over at foreign affairs. This is now reported to have been blocked by senior diplomats.
Mr Hollande appears to have offered the job instead to one of his most persistent left-wing critics, Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille. She said on Tuesday that she would not join the government. According to reports from within the Élysée Palace, the job may now go to the former Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault. Keeping Ms Royal at environment would, however, block Mr Hollande’s hopes of expanding his political base.
Mr Hollande may also have to abandon constitutional amendments announced after the 13 November Paris attacks. Almost half the government deputies voted on Tuesday night against Mr Hollande’s proposal to strip terrorists of their French citizenship. But the plan was narrowly agreed by 162 votes to 148 – and the whole package of constitutional changes passed the lower house on Wednesday afternoon by 319 votes to 199.