Macron reshapes French cabinet for tricky second term

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Paris (AFP)- French President Emmanuel Macron reshuffled his government on Monday in search of a fresh start for his second term, dogged by his failure to secure a parliamentary majority last month.

While he eventually bowed to public pressure by removing Damien Abad, the minister for solidarity and social cohesion under investigation for rape, there were few signs of a major revival that could reverse Macron’s situation.

Monday’s reshuffle brought in some new faces, including Abad’s replacement, French Red Cross chief Jean-Christophe Combe and emergency physician Francois Braun as health minister.

OECD chief economist Laurence Boone has been named Europe minister, replacing Macron stalwart Clément Beaune, who has become famous for his verbal sparring with Brexit supporters. Beaune is transferred to the Ministry of Transport.

Other posts in the 41-person cabinet have mostly gone to politicians from different factions in Macron’s camp. The ministers of foreign affairs, finance and defense all remained in place.

Christophe Bechu, mayor of Angers, a city in the Loire and a close ally of former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, has been appointed Minister of the Environment, long followed by the President as an absolute priority for the next five years.

“This is a message to the troops: loyalty will be rewarded. Looking ahead to the coming months, where votes on new laws may be limited to a few votes,” tweeted Frédéric Says, political commentator for France Culture.

“There are no surprises here,” Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel told LCI TV, saying he “felt they were starting over with the same people.”

A first test for the new government will take place on July 6, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will present her policy to parliament.

The government remains unclear whether it will hold a traditional high-stakes confidence vote next.

Running out of majority

Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen a second time in April’s presidential run-off to win a new five-year term.

But a lackluster campaign for the parliamentary vote last month saw his supporters win just 250 seats, 39 short of the absolute majority needed to pass new laws.

“In a simple press release, Emmanuel Macron announces the new government. Those who failed are all reappointed,” Le Pen tweeted, saying the president had “ignored” French demands for “another policy.”

Macron was largely absent from the domestic political scene between the presidential election and the vote for the National Assembly – instead becoming absorbed in the international arena with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But where the image of the head of state fighting France’s corner abroad might once have ensured the support of presidents in the parliamentary ballot, this time around it has reinforced Macron’s image as aloof. and arrogant.

His far-right and far-left opponents have been given carte blanche to attack the few concrete policies proposed by the majority, such as an unpopular plan to raise the legal retirement age to 65.

And after a first term rocked by crises such as anti-government “yellow vest” protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, Macron may report little success in the reform agenda on which he was elected in 2017.

The once all-powerful president will now have to find allies in a parliament with large blocs from the far-right and left-wing NUPES alliance – both of which are largely hostile to his leadership.

Opposition forces have ruled out any formal coalition, leaving the government to glean support where it can as bills come to a vote.

“While yesterday he opposed ‘imperfect compromises’, now the president will have to resign himself to it”, commented this weekend the newspaper Le Monde, complaining of “presidential hesitation” and “ideological vagueness” at the ‘Elysium.

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