France’s government resigns, political shake up expected

World Today

French PM VallesFrench prime minister Manuel Valls, right, and Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg during a visit to French defense and electronic company Thales in Gennevilliers, outside Paris, France. (Photo: AP/Christophe Ena, File)

French President Francois Hollande is dissolving the government after an open feud in his Cabinet over the country’s economy. Prime Minister Manuel Valls offered up his Socialist government’s resignation Monday after accusing his economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, of crossing a line with open criticism of the government’s policies.

Hollande accepted the resignation and ordered Valls to form a new government by Tuesday.

Hollande’s business-minded policies have alienated many left-wing lawmakers and voters already frustrated with his failed pledge to curb unemployment. He is now the most unpopular president in over half a century, with an approval score of 17 percent in the latest Ifop poll.

France is under pressure from the European Union to sort out its finances, but Montebourg has questioned whether the austerity tack pressed by the E.U. will really kick start French growth.

“France is the eurozone’s second-biggest economy, the world’s fifth-greatest power, and it does not intend to align itself, ladies and gentlemen, with the excessive obsessions of Germany’s conservatives. That is why the time has come for France and its government, in the name of the European Union’s survival, to put up a just and sane resistance [to these policies].” – French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg

Montebourg also said on Sunday that the time had come for France to resist Germany’s “obsession” with austerity and promote alternative policies across the euro zone that support household consumption. He said he had personally asked President Francois Hollande for “a major re-direction of our economic policy.”

The minister’s comments angered the Socialist leadership, which said Montebourg’s job was to support the government, not criticize it from within.

The new government is unlikely to include Montebourg or other left-wing Socialists and there will be no new election. Instead, led by Valls, the new Cabinet is expected to work toward smoother ties with the E.U. Education Minister Benoit Hamon, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira are also expected to lose their jobs in Tuesday’s reshuffle.

Deficit-reduction measures carried out since the 2008 financial crisis have crippled Europe’s economies and governments need to change course swiftly or they will lose their voters to populist and extremist parties, Montebourg told a socialists’ meeting in eastern France. France has had effectively no economic growth this year, and unemployment has hovered around 10 percent.

French officials have already made clear that the French deficit will again surpass the E.U.’s 3 percent target and are negotiating a delay. Hollande’s promises to cut taxes and make it easier for businesses to open and operate have stalled, in large part because of the divisions among his Socialist party.

Earlier this month the French government admitted it would be impossible to reach a previous growth forecast of 1 percent. Germany saw its economy shrink by 0.2 percent between April and June.

Montebourg told French radio shortly before Valls announced the government’s resignation that he had no regrets about his remarks.

In an interview last week, Montebourg said France’s neighbor had been “trapped by the policy of austerity.” He went on to say “when I say Germany, I mean the German right wing that supports Angela Merkel. It’s not France’s job to align itself to the ideological axioms of Germany’s right wing.”

Merkel on Monday declined to comment directly about France’s change in government but said she wishes “the French president success with his reform agenda.”

For more on the political turmoil in France, CCTV America’s Jack Parrock reports.

French government in political turmoil alongside economy stagnation

French president Francois Hollande dissolved the government after a bitter feud with some of cabinet members. The finance minister didn't agree with the way the economy was being managed and said so publicly. CCTV America’s Jack Parrock reports.

This report was compiled with information from the Associated Press, BBC World News, and Reuters.