After taking a drubbing in recent weeks for a string of slip-ups on the world stage, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping a reworking of his cabinet—his fourth in less than a year—will lift his flagging reputation. Sarkozy announced several changes last Sunday, including ousting foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who’d only been in office for three months. Alliot-Marie had controversially vacationed in Tunisia over Christmas, as anti-government protests were gaining momentum, and, in January, offered the Ben Ali regime the use of French police.
The most notable criticism of Sarkozy came from a group of unnamed French diplomats, who published an opinion piece in Le Monde last week accusing him of “amateurism, impulsiveness and [a] short-term preoccupation with the image in the media.” They refuted his attempts to stick envoys with the blame for France’s slowness to react to the crisis in Tunisia, as well as in Egypt. Gaffes on the international stage are a sore point for the French, who take a particular pride in their nation’s diplomatic abilities. A recent opinion poll found that 59 per cent of respondents don’t want Sarkozy to run in the 2012 election.