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French president accepts PM’s resignation

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France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has resigned
from his post, a day after a much-criticised show of
insubordination by the country’s economy minister.

In a statement issued on Monday, President Francois
Hollande immediately asked Valls to form a new
government by Tuesday in line with the “direction he
[the president] has defined for our country”.

The new cabinet will be announced on Tuesday and
there was no immediate word on who would stay and
who would go.

On Sunday, leftist Economy Minister Arnaud
Montebourg called for new economic policies and
questioned what he called Germany’s “obsession”
with budgetary rigour.

“A major change in our economy policy,” was what
Montebourg had said was needed from the president
and prime minister.

With those words, Montebourg drew the anger of the
Socialist leadership, which said Montebourg’s job
was to support the government, not criticise it from

“He’s not there to start a debate but to put France
back on the path of growth,” Carlos Da Silva, the
Socialist Party spokesman, told Le Figaro newspaper.

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.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Thomas Guenole, a
French political expert, said that the political feud
between Valls and Montebourg is part of an ongoing
struggle within France’s Socialist Party.

“It’s been the same debate for 30 years now,” he said.
“Now, it is boiling.”

If Hollande decided to sack Montebourg, who is
viewed as a potential presidential rival, he would risk
seeing the ousted minister take with him a band of
rebel lawmakers and deprive him of the
parliamentary majority he needs to push through

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.

A new survey released at the weekend showed
Hollande’s poll ratings stuck at 17 percent, the lowest
for any leader of France since its Fifth Republic was
formed in 1958.

Valls, a once-popular interior minister, saw his own
popularity eroded by his failure to tackle
unemployment, which is stuck above 10 percent.

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