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Macron reshapes French cabinet for difficult second term

#Macron #reshapes #French #cabinet #difficult #term

French President Emmanuel Macron reshuffled his government on Monday in search of a fresh start for his second term after failing to win a parliamentary majority last month.

While he eventually gave in to public pressure by deposing Solidarity and Social Cohesion Minister Damien Abad, who was facing a rape probe, there was little sign of any major renewal that could turn Macron’s fortunes.

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

OECD chief economist Laurence Boone was appointed Europe Minister, replacing Macron loyalist Clement Beaune, who became notorious for his verbal rows with Brexit supporters. Beaune was transferred to the Ministry of Transport.

Other posts in the 41-strong cabinet mostly went to politicians from the various factions in Macron’s camp. The foreign, finance and defense ministers all remained in office.

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

“It’s a message to the troops: Loyalty is rewarded. Looking ahead to the coming months when the votes on new laws are likely to come down to few votes,” tweeted France Culture political commentator Frederic Says.

“There are no surprises here,” Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel told LCI, saying he “feels like they’re starting over with the same people right now.”

A first test of the new government will come on July 6, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will set out her policy before Parliament.

The government is not yet certain it will hold a traditional high-stakes confidence vote after that.

– Close to the majority –

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

But a lackluster campaign for the parliamentary vote last month earned his supporters just 250 seats, 39 fewer than the outright majority needed to pass new legislation.

“In a mere press release, Emmanuel Macron announces the new government. Those who failed will all be reappointed,” Le Pen tweeted, saying the president “ignored” French calls for “different policies.”

Macron was largely absent from the domestic political stage between the presidential election and the National Assembly election – instead he emerged on the international stage with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But where the image of the head of state fighting France’s corner abroad might once have secured the president’s backing in the general election, this time it reinforces Macron’s image as distant and arrogant.

His opponents on the far right and hard left had a free hand to attack the few concrete measures the majority offered, such as an unpopular plan to extend the statutory retirement age to 65.

And after a first term marked by crises such as the anti-government “yellow vest” protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, Macron has had few achievements on the reform program for which he was elected in 2017.

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

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

“While yesterday he spoke out against ‘imperfect compromises’, the president has to put up with it from now on,” commented the newspaper Le Monde this weekend and lamented “the president’s hesitation” and “ideological vagueness” in the Elysée.

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