RESHUFFLE

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigns ahead of ministerial shake-up

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has stepped down.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has stepped down. AP - Gonzalo Fuentes

France is to receive a new prime minister “within the coming hours” after Edouard Philippe and his government resigned on Friday ahead of a ministerial shake-up that will see a new team navigate France through the challenges ahead.

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Philippe, who has been head of government since May 2017 and whose popularity has been rising in recent weeks, will continue to handle government affairs until a new cabinet is named, the Elysée said in a statement.

There was no indication whether Philippe, the new mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre, would be included in the revamped government.

After meeting on Thursday night, Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron established a “shared view on the need for a new team to take on the next stage of the government’s five-year mandate,” the Elysée said.

The ministerial reshuffle – expected before next Wednesday – is seen as an attempt to bolster Macron’s environmental credentials after his La République en Marche (LReM) party was battered in municipal elections last Sunday, losing all major cities to the greens and leaving the president without a local power base ahead of his re-election bid in 2022.

New team hinted at during interview

Macron had confirmed the imminent reshuffle in an interview with regional media Thursday, during which he said the government would be injected with “new talent” and “personalities from different backgrounds” as he charted a new course for the last two years of his term.

Macron also described his relationship with Philippe as “historic”, saying the former prime minister – who is not a member of LReM – had done a “remarkable job” as head of the government.

“For three years by my side he has done a remarkable job with successive governments and we have carried out some important reforms ... we have a relationship of trust,” Macron said.

Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe at the Elysée Palais on 2 July, 2020.
Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe at the Elysée Palais on 2 July, 2020. Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP

He added that France needed to prepare for a "very difficult" economic crisis that would require economic, social and environmental reconstruction. 

“I will have to make choices to take the new road – there are new aims of independence, reconstruction and reconciliation ...  Behind that, there will be a new team,” Macron said.

An opinion poll for right-wing daily Le Figaro and France Info radio on Thursday showed 59 percent of French people wanted Philippe to stay on as prime minister.

There are suggestions he could use his home town of Le Havre as the base for a presidential bid of his own in 2022. 

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