Face of the new French government

French government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Photo / AP
French government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Photo / AP

Thirty years ago, a 4-year-old Moroccan girl emigrated to France to join her father. Now she is the official "face" of the new French Government.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 34, is the youngest member of President Francois Hollande's Cabinet. She is the Minister for Women's Affairs and will be the official spokeswoman for the Government and, therefore, the mouthpiece for "Hollandism".

The first Socialist French Government for 10 years is stuffed, some say over-stuffed, with messages and symbols. It is the first government in France, or any large democracy, to be perfectly gender-balanced - 17 men and 17 women. Hollande and his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, have also reached out to racial minorities, youth and the Eurosceptic wing of the French left.

There is no message more striking than that embodied by Vallaud-Belkacem, after an election in which immigration and Islam were used as cudgels by both the far right and by the centre-right president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Vallaud-Belkacem, beautiful, eloquent, ever-smiling, was one of the stars of the Hollande campaign. She has enjoyed a rapid rise in a political system, and a party, which is generally ill-disposed towards youthful politicians.

A married mother of twins, Vallaud-Belkacem is a "non-practising Muslim". After winning scholarships to elite colleges in her youth, she calls herself a "pure product of the [egalitarianism] of the [French] Republic". She insisted yesterday, however, that she wanted to be judged on her abilities, not on her "triple symbolism" as a young female of North African origin.


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