His first proposed action, a series of decrees selling a large number of France's nationalized companies, ran into a constitutional snag. [Francois Mitterrand] told a morning meeting of the [Jacques Chirac] Cabinet that he will refuse to sign any decree selling a company nationalized before he came to power in 1981. Also, he insisted that he will examine closely the decrees on other issues before signing them.
The contradictory statements from Mitterrand and Chirac appeared to set the stage for the first serious constitutional confrontation between the Socialist president and the conservative premier since the March 16 parliamentary elections. Those elections turned the French political system upside down by dividing executive power between politicians of opposing ideologies for the first time under the Fifth French Republic.
The denationalization of state industries is a key element in the Chirac program. After the Cabinet meeting, the Chirac government announced that it would introduce legislation into the National Assembly that would authorize the government to use its powers of decree to sell a group of state banks, insurance companies, and corporations like the Elf-Aquitaine oil company and the Havas advertising agency.