Hollande names Ayrault new French prime minister

By Associated Press | May 15, 2012 | 11:27 AM EDT

French Socialist secretary general Martine Aubry, right, and President of the Socialist group at the National Assembly Jean-Marc Ayrault attend the party's national council, in Paris, Monday, May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)


Francois Hollande was sworn in Tuesday as France's new president — the first Socialist to lead the country since 1995 — and within hours named lawmaker Jean-Marc Ayrault as his new prime minister.

Ayrault, who leads the Socialists in Parliament, is a German speaker and a former teacher of the language of Goethe. That could be a key advantage for Hollande, whose success as president — as well as the fate of the entire 17-nation eurozone — may depend on his relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Underscoring the importance of that relationship, Hollande headed to Germany for a visit on the same day that he took office.

Ayrault (ay-ROW) and Hollande are said to be very close; they even sit next to each other in France's National Assembly chamber.

The 62-year-old Ayrault has served as a deputy in that lower house since 1986. He is also mayor of Nantes, a city on the Atlantic coast.