Correction to This Article
A photo caption with this May 19 A-section article about the new French cabinet incorrectly identified Christine Boutin, the housing minister, as Roselyne Bachelot, minister of health, youth and sports.

Sarkozy Names 7 Women to 15-Member Cabinet

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 19, 2007

PARIS, May 18 -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy named women to nearly half of his cabinet positions Friday and designated the founder of Doctors Without Borders, a Socialist, as his foreign minister.

The appointments reflect Sarkozy's pledge to diversify the top echelons of the French government with greater numbers of women and representatives from opposition political parties. More than half of the cabinet members are familiar political faces who served as ministers in President Jacques Chirac's government.

The 15-member cabinet -- seven women and eight men -- is half the size of previous governments, part of Sarkozy's efforts to streamline the bloated French bureaucracy.

The cabinet held its first meeting within hours of being named, in keeping with Sarkozy's plan to bring more dynamism to a government that had become sluggish and unresponsive to the public.

On Thursday, minutes after naming his close friend and political colleague François Fillon as prime minister, the two men pulled on shorts and went jogging, with bodyguards following closely, in the sprawling Bois de Boulogne park on the western edge of Paris.

The most controversial of Sarkozy's appointments is Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, 67, a popular politician and the founder of Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nonprofit organization that pioneered sending medical workers into the most dangerous and destitute reaches of the globe. Members of Kouchner's Socialist Party branded him a traitor for taking a ministerial position under Sarkozy, who beat out Socialist Ségolène Royal for the presidency.

Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon said the party would expel Kouchner.

"He joined a government of the right, the government that we are fighting," Hamon said. "There's nothing more for him inside our party."

Sarkozy named as defense minister Hervé Morin, a centrist who was a key adviser to failed presidential candidate François Bayrou.

Michèle Alliot-Marie, Chirac's defense minister, was made interior minister in charge of security and counterterrorism. Rachida Dati, 41, whose parents immigrated to France from Morocco and Algeria, will serve as justice minister. Women were also chosen as ministers of education, culture, health and sports, agriculture, and housing.

Sarkozy enlisted one of his closest political friends, Brice Hortefeux, to take over a new ministry of immigration, integration and national identity. When Sarkozy announced his plans to create the position, opponents as well as members of his own party criticized a ministry of national identity as too evocative of France's experiences with the Vichy government, which did the bidding of the Nazis in deporting Jews during World War II.

Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, became the head of a new ministry of environment, sustainable development, transportation and energy.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company