In Depth

Francois Hollande purges cabinet: what next for France?

French president hits reset button as France argues about best way to handle economic stagnation

France's president Francois Hollande has told his prime minister, Manuel Valls, to dissolve his government and form a new one. It is the country's second major re-shuffle in just five months, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Dubbed a "purge" by some commentators, the surprise move comes as France struggles to emerge from economic stagnation. Many see Hollande's decision as a sign of dissatisfaction at Valls's handling of divisions in his cabinet - and in particular with one man, economy minister Arnaud Montebourg.

What has Hollande done?

France's Socialist president has formally asked his PM to form "a team consistent with the direction he has set himself for the country". Valls first offered the resignation of his government, a formality to allow him to carry out a reshuffle.

What was the trigger?

While the presidency gave no reason for the decision, the timing suggests Hollande is reacting to the "insubordination" of his economy minister, Montebourg. As one of the just-dissolved government's left-leaning figures he was at odds with cabinet centrists including Valls. Montebourg told Le Monde on Saturday that Germany was "trapped in an austerity policy that it imposed across Europe" and said on Sunday he had asked for a "major shift" in economic policy from Hollande and Valls.

What next for Montebourg?

As the cabinet was dissolved yesterday, Montebourg blamed Hollande's "absurd" austerity policies and the eurozone's fiscal stance for "the unnecessary prolongation of the economic crisis and the suffering of the European population", the Financial Times reports. The prime minister has not announced his new line-up yet - but commentators say it is extremely unlikely the 51-year-old Montebourg will be included.

How did Montebourg get the job in the first place?

The Telegraph says Montebourg was appointed in reaction to a "drubbing" the ruling socialists suffered in local elections in April. In his previous role, as industrial renewal minister, he had grabbed headlines by standing up to big business, so his promotion may have been a sop to the grass roots of the party.

Why is France in such political turmoil?

The Telegraph points out that the French economy has been stagnant for the past six months. Earlier this month, the central bank warned Hollande had no chance of reaching his target of one per cent growth for 2014, forcing him to revise it down to 0.5 per cent. This "economic gloom" has left the government deeply unpopular, says the FT, with Hollande's personal approval at just 17 per cent and Valls at a well below par 36 per cent.

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