PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a centre-right government which includes seven women and France's first senior minister of Arab origin.
During his long presidential campaign, M. Sarkozy had displayed two faces: the pragmatic, non-ideological man of action; and the ranting, right-wing populist. The government that he announced yesterday reflected the "can-do", open-minded politician who first began to manoeuvre for the presidency four years ago.
The most startling appointment - given the male and white domination of previous French governments - was that of a woman of Arab origin as the new Justice Minister.
M. Sarkozy gave the post, one of the top four, to his political adviser and campaign spokeswoman Rachida Dati, 41, a former magistrate with Moroccan and Algerian parents. Mme Dati, the second of 12 children brought up in a council flat in Chalon-sur-SaÃƒÂ´ne in Burgundy, began life as a home carer. She will oversee a justice system which has often been accused of being weighted against racial minorities.
The other spectacular "opening" of the new centre-right government was the much-trailed appointment of the Socialist, Bernard Kouchner, 67, as Foreign Minister.
M. Kouchner, the co-founder of MÃƒ©decins sans FrontiÃƒÂ¨res, was immediately expelled from the Parti Socialiste as a traitor for accepting the post.
Another big job - that of Defence Minister - was given to the centrist politician HervÃƒ© Morin, 46, previously close to the centrist leader, FranÃƒÂ§ois Bayrou.
The opening to the left and centre - there are three "leftists" among the junior ministers - is intended to ensure a landslide victory for M. Sarkozy's centre-right party in the parliamentary elections next month. The inclusion of so many outsiders has infuriated male politicians of the centre-right who assumed that they were "owed" senior jobs.
There were also two ministerial boundary changes. TheFinance Ministry was split into a strategic, economics and employment ministry under Jean-Louis Borloo, 53, and a budget and tax-gathering ministry under Eric Woerth, 51.
Brice Hortefeux, 48, a friend of M. Sarkozy since he was 18, takes over a sinister-sounding new Ministry for Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Overseas Development. The rest of the old Interior Ministry goes to the former defence minister MichÃƒÂ¨le Alliot-Marie, 60.
Alain JuppÃƒ©, 61, a former prime minister, returns to the government as de facto Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister.
The Socialist Party leader, FranÃƒÂ§ois Hollande, said the government was a "hard- right" administration, given a softer image for the purpose of "manoeuvre, appearance and illusion".
He may prove to be right. However, several excluded politicians of the right find it hard to reconcile the new "rainbow" government with the tribal right-wing rhetoric M. Sarkozy often used during the campaign.
© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited