The popular François Fillon continues as Prime Minister despite a strained relationship with the Élysée. But Defense Minister Hervé Morin and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have been replaced by Alain Juppé, a former prime minister and protege of former President Jacques Chirac, and Michèle Alliot-Marie, a former justice minister in the last cabinet. Both Juppé and Alliot-Marie are formidable politicians who will strike out in new directions. One is a well-connected power-broker, the other a potential future prime minister – and perhaps one day even France's first female president.
Investors reacted positively to the changes. With Socialist Bernard Kouchner, centrists Hervé Morin and Jean Louis Borloo out, the Cabinet is said to be more right-wing. The only Socialist remaining is Éric Besson who has been moved to the Industry Ministry. The French ministerial line-up certainly has fewer problems for the Élysée – scandal-hit Éric Woerth will leave, as will gaffe-prone Rama Yade.
Yet the next election will probably not be fought on foreign and defence issues. And having promised a complete change, Sarkozy decided not to go all the way in the end. Keeping both Prime Minister Fillon and his finance minister, Christine Lagarde may betray the president's weakness rather than his strength.