14 Nov 2010

French government resigns ahead of reshuffle

10:30 am on 14 November 2010

France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his cabinet have stepped down, paving the way for a planned reshuffle by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The resignation, a procedural move, allows the head of state to pick new ministers without having to fire his existing team.

Government sources say Mr Fillon was expected to be quickly re-appointed, AFP reports.

Most observers expect a smaller cabinet, drawn mainly from Sarkozy's right-wing majority party, the UMP, the news agency says.

Mr Sarkozy's supporters are vying for positions ahead of his expected bid for re-election to the presidency in 2012.

There has been mounting political tension in France in recent months over controversial reforms to the country's pension system, which were approved last month, but led to widespread protests.

Mr Sarkozy's popularity ratings are at a record low, and the BBC says he will be hoping his reshuffle can move some of those ministers most closely connected to the controversy and prepare the way for the presidential elections.