French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, who seemed like a shoo-in for the presidency only three months ago, handed in his resignation Wednesday and headed for political exile as the price of betraying his 30-year friendship with conservative president-elect Jacques Chirac.
Balladur’s office announced that he had dispatched his resignation letter to outgoing President Francois Mitterrand on Wednesday morning, dissolving their two-year powersharing arrangement and clearing the way for Chirac to appoint his own government when he assumes the presidency next week.
With a speed more breathtaking than the collapse of his campaign, Balladur’s aspirations of wielding influence in the post-Mitterrand era have evaporated. Even his staunchest supporters have abandoned him as they try to salvage their careers by making amends with Chirac.
The new president, who is expected to choose Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to head his government as soon as he takes office, has been holding consultations with advisers and prospective Cabinet members since his victory Sunday night over Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin.
Participants in the discussions said Chirac wants to thwart possible strikes in the autumn with a 100-day crash program to boost wages, lower taxes and create thousands of jobs for the unemployed. People younger than 25, one-quarter of whom are unemployed and who voted heavily for Chirac, will be a special focus for work programs.