1 Apr 2014

Bruised Hollande changes prime ministers

12:18 pm on 1 April 2014

French president Francois Hollande has responded to a bruising local-elections defeat by changing prime ministers.

In the second round of municipal elections on Sunday Mr Hollande's Socialist party lost control of more than 150 towns and cities of more than 9000 inhabitants, mostly to the main centre-right opposition, the UMP.

Results are still being counted but at this stage the right-wing National Front has won control of 11 towns, mainly in the south.

Francois Hollande: "We are in this for the long haul."

Francois Hollande: "We are in this for the long haul." Photo: AFP

Mr Hollande says Manuel Valls, the current interior minister, will head a "fighting government". Barcelona-born Mr Valls, 51, replaces Jean-Marc Ayrault, who has acknowledged that many voters had lost confidence in his administration.

Mr Valls, a liberal, is distrusted by the Socialist party's left-wing and has presidential ambitions of his own but the BBC's correspondent in Paris says he is popular with the voters. As interior minister, he has handled the media astutely and acted tough on illegal migrants.

The Socialists have been hit by growing discontent over the economy after struggling to keep unemployment figures down and boost economic growth. In a short televised address on Monday, Mr Hollande acknowledged it was time for change, saying the country had to put right its public finances,

He proposed a reduction in taxes and worker contributions to spur job creation. "We are in this for the long haul," he said.