French President Macron unveils a new prime minister in major reshuffle

KEY POINTS
  • In France, the president — the main political figure — selects the prime minister, who then forms the government.
  • The resignation comes after speculation that President Emmanuel Macron was preparing a reshuffle to focus on the economic recovery post-coronavirus.
  • Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had become more popular among the electorate in the aftermath of the pandemic than Macron.

France’s new Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to announce a government reshuffle on Monday, which will be entrusted to aid the battered economy and breathe new life into President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

Castex was virtually unheard of in France before his appointment on Friday.

The 55-year-old was previously a local mayor from the Pyrenees and had been overseeing France’s exit from coronavirus lockdown. He also worked for former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration at the Elysée and was a member of the right-wing “Les Républicains” (LR) party.l elections.The president’s centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party was dealt a blow during local elections on June 28, with green parties winning the key cities.
LREM is also under pressure from the economic devastation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.France’s central bank said in June the economy would take two years to recover from its worst post-war recession and up to a million jobs are at risk.Macron said on Twitter on Sunday a “new path” was necessary and that the economy and environment topped the government’s priorities.The AFP news agency reported an aide to Macron, who asked not to be named, said there would be “new talent” and “people who have come from different horizons”.But few details have surfaced over what changes could occur.

‘Limited’ policy maneuver

“The room for policy manouver is limited,” Tomasz Michalski, associate professor at the H.E.C. Business school in Paris, said via email.

“The economic measures introduced during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. worker furloughing schemes) adjourned the economic problems that are going to be felt strongly in the Fall with massive layoffs that are being prepared, bankruptcies and an ever more indebted French state.”

The French central bank said in June that it expects the country’s economy to contract by 10.3% this year, before returning to growth in 2021 and 2022.

“President Macron may need to extend social security programs even further to avoid mass protests. He might also need to raise taxes. In this context, as a counterpart, he wishes to complete the pension reform started over a year ago: to be able to claim that he fulfilled some of his campaign promises and repaired the French state for many years to come,” Michalski added.

Macron was elected in 2017 on a pro-European platform and reformist agenda, promising to make France’s labor market less rigid. He created his own centrist party, La Republique En Marche!, as an alternative to the conservative Les Republicains and left-wing Socialist Party — the two mainstream groups that had dominated French politics until then.

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