Jupp expects to be appointed prime minister

THE FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION Mary Dejevsky reviews the careers of the likely contenders for ministerial posts in the new French government

One of the first tasks facing Jacques Chirac when he takes over will be his choice of prime minister. In theory, the prime minister then selects the members of the government, who are approved by the president. In practice, Mr Chirac is believed to have selected most of the key members of the government already; in the latter stages of the election campaign he was accompanied by a team which looked very like a government-in-waiting.

Three appointments will be particularly crucial: those of prime minister, economics minister and foreign minister. Alain Jupp, who has been foreign minister for the past two years in the government of Edouard Balladur and gained respect in that post, is confidently expected - and expecting - to become prime minister. In the past few weeks he has spoken increasingly on subjects outside his prime area of responsibility, roving especially into economic and tax issues.

Mr Jupp fits into the classic mould of French politician/bureaucrat. He was a high-flyer from the start, winning prizes and awards at every stage in his academic career, concluding with fifth place in his graduation year from the Ecole Nationale d'Administration.

Now 49, he served as a junior finance minister in Mr Chirac's first "cohabitation" government of 1986-88, then returned as foreign minister in Mr Balladur's second "cohabitation" government (1993 to date). When the right was out of office, he made his career mainly in the RPR party, which he headed while Mr Chirac was campaigning for the presidency.

Mr Jupp is an impressive performer and is renowned as having one of the sharpest minds in French politics. He speaks fluent English and good Spanish. He is an accomplished sportsman: he skis and works out regularly in the gym. He dresses elegantly and is reputed to be a gourmet, with a particular liking for oysters. He is said to like Marks & Spencer muffins for breakfast and to have been disapproving when his children started to frequent McDonald's. His (second) wife, Isabelle, is a journalist and has taken a high profile as a minister's wife, writing a best-selling book recommending marriage to a government minister.

Alain Madelin, the current enterprise minister in Mr Balladur's government, is tipped to become economics minister. He served as minister of industry, posts and telecommunications from 1986 to 1988. He, too, is 49 and joined Mr Chirac's campaign at the start. He keeps a house in Brittany, and has been vice-chairman of the Breton regional council for the past three years. He is an opera buff and speaks English and Italian. Most of his political activity has been in the centre-right independent Republican Party, of which he is vice-president.

Unlike the posts of prime minister and economics minister, the foreign- affairs portfolio has no obvious claimant. This is because Mr Chirac has in his team representatives of two distinct strands of thought: Mr Jupp, a Europhile and ardent supporter of the "strong franc" policy, and Philippe Sguin, who campaigned against France's accession to the Maastricht treaty and argues a position closer to the official British view. Mr Sguin also has misgivings about whether the "strong franc" and the proposed 1999 target date for the single European currency can or should be maintained if they jeopardise France's potential economic growth.

One possibility is that Mr Jupp will continue to have a say in foreign policy so that the foreign minister's role will become less important. In that case, one name being mentioned is that of Alain Lamassoure, the current minister for Europe.

There is one further notable individual, who stands to be given a ministerial portfolio at the tender age of 29. He is Francois Baroin, who was Mr Chirac's capable spokesman through the campaign. Mr Baroin, a graduate in defence and information science and a former journalist, is the youngest member of the National Assembly.

He is also particularly well-connected. His father - who was killed in an unexplained air crash in Africa in 1987 - was a senior business figure, who also held undefined responsibilities in the top ranks of the French secret service.

As spokesman for Mr Chirac, he was politically astute, though behind his glasses, he often looked short of sleep. Despite his age, he was involved in many top decisions during the Chirac campaign, and is tipped to be minister of communications.

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