Emmanuel Macron is keeping France in the dark about how extensive a cabinet overhaul he’s planning to give a new impulse to his presidency.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe spent almost two hours meeting with President Macron on Tuesday morning, with no announcement made afterwards. Philippe had been expected to tender his gove- rnment’s resignation, with the list of new ministers presented later in the day. The new team is expected to be in place for Wednesday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting.
Beyond the timing, what remains unclear is the scope of the changes Macron will instigate as he seeks to move beyond months of gaffes and political setbacks. While he could simply replace Gerard Collomb, who quit as interior minister last week, that may not be enough for the 40-year-old president who once alluded to himself as the Roman god Jupiter.
Collomb’s messy resignation over two days “shows that the Jupiterian machine has sand in its gears and that he has to get things on track again,” said Florian Silnicki, founder of political communications agency LaFr-ench’Com. “Macron risks being ‘Hollandized’ in that he could look like a weak president,” he said, referring to predecessor Francois Hollande.
Plunging domestic approval ratings and question marks over his style of governance are casting a pall over Macron’s efforts to strengthen Europe, bolster the euro area and lead the charge against nationalist forces from Italy to Hungary. Faced with internal revolt in the ministerial team picked to carry out his French reform agenda, Macron is casting about for new faces.
RMC Radio said that the cabinet reshuffle could involve between five and 10 ministers or junior ministers being replaced or seeing their functions rejigged, with those responsible for culture, agriculture and territorial cohesion the most likely to be replaced. Philippe is widely expected to be re-named as prime minister.
Macron’s office won’t comment on his plans beyond saying the president is readying for “an important rebound.”
More than a half dozen people, all men, have been mentioned in French media as possible replacements for Collomb, who as Socialist mayor of Lyon was one of the first political heavyweights to back Macron’s nascent political campaign in early 2017. They include: Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, former police chief Frederic Pechenard, and Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who came to national prominence following the 2015 terrorist atrocities.
Other possibilities are Christophe Castaner, the head of Macron’s political party LREM, and Jean Castex, who was deputy chief of staff to former President Nicolas Sarkozy and has run major sporting events.
Bruno Le Maire meanwhile said in an interview with French radio Europe 1 that he was “enthusiastic” about working for Macron as finance and economy minister. “Unemployment is falling, public finances are under control, growth is coming back,” he said. “I want to continue what I’m doing.”
An Odoxa poll released found that 80 percent consider Macron’s communication in the Collomb case to have been poor; 75 percent said they see the departures of Collomb and Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, who quit on live radio in August, as a sign of “a real problem” in the way Macron governs.
But the poll did have some good news for Macron: his approval rating rose four percentage points to 33 percent in October; that’s still the second-lowest level since he took office in May 2017.