Sarkozy appoints Fillon to form new French government
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has charged Francois Fillon once again with forming a new government, the president's office announced on Sunday.
The move came one day after Fillon stepped down as prime minister along with his government to pave the way for Sarkozy to conduct a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle, DPA reported.
After being asked once more to form a government, Fillon spoke of a new era and emphasized his "commitment at Nicolas Sarkozy's side."
The formation of the new cabinet is expected late Sunday. Government sources said it will only feature 26 ministers and state secretaries, instead of the previous 37.
Former premier and foreign minister Alain Juppe, who now serves as the mayor of Bordeaux, is expected to return to the cabinet as defence minister.
Valerie Pecresse, who served as education minister, is widely expected to take up the justice portfolio. The fate of Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who many thought may one day become prime minister, remained unclear.
The opposition is sceptical of the reshuffle, claiming it will change little.
"After a soap opera that has dragged on for six months, the president has organized another new show for our television screens this evening," Socialist parliamentarian Jean-Marc Ayrault said.
The overhaul, the fourth of Sarkozy's presidency, had been hinted at in the spring after the government's poor showing in regional elections.
The president has seen his popularity decline further over the introduction this month of a pension reform that increases the retirement age by two years.
Analysts say Sarkozy is hoping to use the reshuffle to polish his image prior to an expected bid for a second term in presidential elections due in 2012.