Despite electoral drubbing, Sarkozy will not change reform plans
(dpa) - Despite suffering a drubbing at the hands of voters in Sunday's municipal elections, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday he would not alter his plans to push through wide-ranging social and economic reforms.
"There will be no change of direction," Sarkozy said during the course of Wednesday's cabinet meeting, in what was described as an unusually long discourse for the occasion.
"The worst response (to the election results) would be to slow the change," he said. "We must continue (the reform process). This is the only way to keep our commitments, to respond to the current difficulties."
Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement lost control of more than 40 large French cities on Sunday, with the opposition Socialists now governing seven of France's 10 largest municipalities, and 25 of the 37 cities with a population of over 100,000.
On Wednesday, Sarkozy said again that there would be no austerity programme initiated, as opposition politicians have charged.
The daily Le Figaro reported that Sarkozy planned to respond to the concerns of working class voters, who had supported him during last year's presidential election but appear to have stayed away from the polls in large numbers on Sunday.
The newspaper said that the president's priority would be to modernize the French economy, which would involve controversial changes to the labour code. A bill could be ready before summer.
The wed site MediaPart reported Wednesday that Sarkozy's reforms would be deeper than suspected by media and the opposition, and would involve deep changes to the labour market and the pension system.
Proposals could be made public within days, MediaPart said.
Sarkozy also said that he had no intention of keeping France's commitment to the European Union to have a balanced budget by 2010, but to achieve it two years later.
The French president also said he wanted to make it official French policy to govern immigration according to quotas.
On Tuesday, in another response to the election results, Sarkozy fine-tuned his government, creating six new junior ministerial posts, shifting several junior ministers and changing the portfolios of others.
Significantly, no jobs were offered to members of the opposition, suggesting that Sarkozy's experiment with opening his government to all parties might have been put on ice.