Socialist Elephants Stampede for Jobs With Hollande

France's President Elect Francois Hollande
Francois Hollande, France's president-elect. Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

The French elephants are back.

Socialist Party veterans -- known collectively as the elephants -- who held Cabinet posts for Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s are lining up for appointments under 57-year-old President-elect Francois Hollande.

The average age of Hollande’s 10 top aides is 60 1/2 and the oldest contender for a ministry post, Laurent Fabius, is 65, above the minimum retirement age. Fabius was the youngest prime minister when he was appointed by Mitterrand in 1984. Michel Sapin and Martine Aubry, potential appointees, also served in Mitterrand’s Cabinet.

“These Socialist Party leaders are reassuring figures for voters, mainly left-wing voters, because they have the experience” said Celine Bracq, co-head of opinion surveys at BVA polling institute. “It’s true they are trying to get a seat but Hollande wants them to be present as well.”

A younger generation that worked up the party ladder during its years in the wilderness is also waiting its turn.

Manuel Valls, 49, who was the campaign’s communications chief, leads the group known as the “forties.” Valls may be chosen for the Interior Ministry. Emmanuel Macron, 35, a banker at Rothschild & Cie. who advised Hollande throughout the campaign, may join him as an aide at the Elysee Palace.

A BVA poll for Le Parisien yesterday showed Valls would be the most popular choice of French voters to be prime minister, with 26 percent supporting him. Aubry, 61, was second with 16 percent of the 874 respondents surveyed via the Internet after Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in the May 6 vote.

Hollande will be France’s first Socialist president in 17 years when he’s sworn in on May 15.


Marisol Touraine, 53, and Pierre Moscovici, 54, aides who outgrew the “forties,” may also land government posts.

They’ll be competing with the elephants for the top jobs.

Fabius, a polyglot from a Paris family of antiques dealers, has held three ministerial posts in addition to that of the prime minister and may be angling for the Foreign Ministry post.

Sapin, 60, was finance minister in the early 1990s for Mitterrand and then the public administration minister in the last Socialist cabinet of former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin between 2000 and 2002. Sapin, who helped write Hollande’s economic program, may get the finance portfolio.

Aubry, best known as the author of the 35-hour work-week law in 1998 when she was Jospin’s minister for social affairs, may be one of the senior women in Hollande’s government. The Socialist Party chief, Aubry was defeated by Hollande in the party’s primary race.

Segolene Royal, 58, a minister under Mitterrand and later Jospin and the mother of Hollande’s four children, is also seeking a Cabinet post.


During his campaign, Hollande has said he’ll choose as prime minister a “uniter, who knows lawmakers well, knows the Socialist Party well and knows me well.”

That describes Jean-Marc Ayrault, 62, who has headed the Socialist group in parliament since 1997 and is the mayor of the western city of Nantes. Ayrault, a German speaker, is also a member of the defense commission at the National Assembly.

Elisabeth Guigou, 65, a justice minister in 1997 and a deputy European Affairs minister for Mitterrand in 1990, has helped Hollande to prepare to re-negotiate European fiscal rules.

Hollande promised to bring to his government a new generation and as many women as men, declining to say if he intended to put them at equal levels.

For women, “there are the usual names, Aubry and myself,” Guigou told Bloomberg yesterday. For a new generation of politicians she said that “there are some young people who don’t have the same experience, but who are very talented.”


Helping to meet his gender-parity promise on his campaign were Socialist lawmakers Delphine Batho, 39, a specialist of homeland affairs, Aurelie Filippetti, 38, a specialist for cultural affairs and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 34. The three were his campaign spokeswomen. Cecile Duflot, the head of the Green party may join the Hollande team if her party wins enough seats at the June legislative ballots.

“There aren’t that many elephants left at the Socialist Party if you think about it, they’ve been out of power for so long,” said Gerard Grunberg, a professor at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris. “The seats will get free naturally if I may say so.”

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