French president François Hollande reshuffled his cabinet on Thursday in an attempt to unite the left ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
The Greens, who left Hollande’s coalition in 2014 when he appointed a relative centrist, Manuel Valls, as prime minister, are back. Three of their members got cabinet posts, including party leader Emmanuelle Cossé.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, Valls’ predecessor, also returns. He replaces Laurent Fabius as foreign minister whom Hollande nominated to the job of president of the Constitutional Council.
Jean-Michel Baylet, leader of the socially liberal Radical Party of the Left and one of Hollande’s competitors in the Socialist Party’s 2011 primary, was named minister of territorial development.
The moves may not succeed in restoring Hollande’s credibility on the left. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Socialist Party defector who got 11 percent support in 2012, said he would still run again next year.
To the dismay of the far left, Hollande kept Emmanuel Macron as economy minister.
The former investment banker has enacted a series of liberal economic reforms, including the introduction of competition in intercity transport, the extension of Sunday shopping hours and €40 billion in business tax cuts.
Hollande defended Macron in an interview on Thursday night, saying, “I’d rather have talents in the government than people who are just happy to comment outside.”
But he has recently started walking back the more social democratic course chartered by Macron and Valls.
In January, Hollande announced €2 billion worth of job-boosting measures in what seemed to mark a return to left-wing orthodoxy.
Proposals to push up the threshold at which overtime pay kicks in to forty hours per week, as is the case in most other European countries, and ironing out the differences between typically older, insider workers who enjoy full labor protections and younger outsiders who can only find temp jobs were abandoned.
Although polls suggest such reforms would find widespread support, they are anathema to a French left that never went through a more business-friendly phase in the 1990s and early 2000s like its counterparts in Europe and the United States.
And Hollande desperately needs their support.
Polls show Hollande struggling to make it into the second voting round next year. The Front national‘s Marine Le Pen and the Republican candidate — Alain Juppé or Nicolas Sarkozy — could beat him into third place, handing the presidency to the right. To make sure he does qualify for the runoff, Hollande needs to draw support away from Mélenchon and other far-left candidates.