Jean-Marc Ayrault

Jean-Marc Ayrault is the Prime Minister of France, appointed on 16 May 2012.

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Jean-Marc Ayrault (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɑ̃maʁk eʁo] ; born 25 January 1950[2]) is the Prime Minister of France, appointed on 16 May 2012. He was the Mayor of Nantes from 1989 to 2012, and led the French Socialist Party group in the National Assembly from 1997 to 2012.

Early life

Born at Maulévrier in Maine-et-Loire,[2] Jean-Marc Ayrault is the son of Joseph Ayrault[3] of Maulévrier, formerly an agricultural worker who was subsequently employed in a textile factory, and of Georgette Uzenot, a former seamstress who later became a full-time housewife.

His early schooling was at the St Joseph Catholic primary school at Maulévrier, after which, between 1961 and 1968, he attended the Lycée Colbert, at Cholet.[4] He subsequently studied German at Nantes University. In 1969/70 he spent a term at the University of Würzburg in Bavaria. He graduated with a degree in German in 1971 and in 1972 obtained his graduate teaching diploma. He stayed in the Nantes area for his probationary teaching year which was undertaken at Rezé. Between 1973 and his election to the National Assembly in 1986 he worked as a German language teacher in nearby Saint-Herblain.[5]

Political career

During his youth, Ayrault was a member of a movement of young Christians in rural areas. He joined the Socialist Party (PS) after the 1971 Epinay Congress during which François Mitterrand took the party leadership. Ayrault was affiliated to Jean Poperen's faction, one of the left-wing groups in the party. Elected in 1976 to the General Council of Loire-Atlantique département, he subsequently became Mayor of Saint-Herblain, located in the western suburbs of Nantes, in 1977. At 27, he was the youngest mayor of a French city of more than 30,000 inhabitants. He left the General Council in 1982.

He reached the PS national committee in 1979, then the executive of the party in 1981. He was first elected to the National Assembly in 1986, as representative of Loire Atlantique department, and he was consistently re-elected in subsequent elections. In 1989, he was chosen by the PS to conquer the mayoralty of Nantes, held by the Rally for the Republic (RPR) party, and he won. Re-elected in 1995, 2001 and 2008, he was also president of the Urban Community of Nantes Métropole since 2002. He was an important "local baron" of the Socialist Party.

After the surprising victory of the "Plural Left" in the 1997 legislative election, he was not appointed to the government but was instead designated as President of the Socialist parliamentary group in the National Assembly, a position he held for the next 15 years. Ayrault was a supporter of François Hollande during the Socialist Party's 2011 primary election to choose its presidential candidate. Hollande was ultimately elected President in the 2012 presidential election, and he appointed Ayrault as Prime Minister when he took office on 15 May 2012.

Prime Minister

Jean-Marc Ayrault with François Hollande during a meeting in Nantes

Following François Hollande's victory in the 2012 presidential election, Ayrault was appointed as Prime Minister of France, replacing François Fillon. The following day, Ayrault unveiled his Cabinet. In response to the Greek government-debt crisis he asked the European Commission to put unused structural funds towards helping the Greek economy return to growth and said "We waited too long before helping Greece. This has been going on for two years now and only gets worse..."[6]

Ayrault's appointment to the country's head of government has prompted discussion within Arabic language mass media as to how to pronounce his surname. When his name is pronounced properly in French, it sounds "very much like a moderately rude Lebanese and Palestinian [slang] term" for a phallus.[7] Al-Arabiya decided to pronounce the name properly and write its Arabic transliteration "in a way that makes clear it is not the offensive word"; CNN Arabic decided to pronounce Ayrault's surname by "voicing the last two letters in the written word."[7]

Since coming to office, Ayrault and his ministers have introduced a raft of measures popular with the French electorate, including a reduction in the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some categories of workers and cuts in ministerial salaries of up to 30%.[8] However, a recent poll showed that global satisfaction and trust rates towards François Hollande and the action of the government was under 50%, leading some editorialists to analyse this as the end of the "état de grâce".

It has also been implied that Jean-Marc Ayrault's leadership on his Ministers is quite weak. Marisol Touraine, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, stated that "the Prime Minister has to play his part of Prime Minister". Malek Boutih from the Socialist party even claimed that "Jean-Marc Ayrault has to learn how to be Prime Minister".