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What will the reshuffled French government look like?

Newly-appointed French Prime Minister Jean Castex: but who will be his right-hand men and women?
Newly-appointed French Prime Minister Jean Castex: but who will be his right-hand men and women? AFP/Thomas Coex
2 min

Newly-appointed French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced his intention to address the ruling party’s parliamentary group as soon as the new government is announced later this Monday. Castex, unlike his predecessor Edouard Philippe, has promised hands-on, direct involvement in leading the ruling majority. 

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Jean Castex has his work cut out. The new French prime minister has to see the nation safely through the uncertain future of the Covid-19 epidemic. He will have to ensure that the economic impact of the crisis is not fatal to certain sectors.

Castex also inherits the troubled question of retirement reform, source of public and trade union anger and huge disruption last winter. As several of this morning’s French daily newspapers point out, he also faces the less visible but no less crucial task of pulling the presidential majority together.

In a weekend interview, Castex described his relationship with the parliamentary group as “the most important” part of his job. His first calls immediately following his nomination were to the various group leaders of the Republic on the Move party and its centrist allies.

Jean Castex has described himself as a man of “dialogue”, a politician who prefers consensus to conflict. He has said his job is to turn the wishes of the president into legislative reality.

The prime minister will clarify his position later this month when he makes his general political declaration before the National Assembly, a few days after President Macron’s 14 July address to the nation.

Fear and loathing on the left

All analysts agree on the need to reassure the left wing of the ruling party, especially since Castex is a refugee from the right-wing Les Républicans, and a former close aide of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

What impact all of that will have on the list of “twenty ministers” which we have been promised before 20.00 Monday evening remains to be seen. But a presidential spokesman has confirmed that new top team will include “new talents and established heavyweights,” with the emphasis on rapid action and with a view to reflecting the “political balance” of the majority.

Few dependable rumours are circulating. Socialist former presidential candidate and ex-minister Ségolène Royal claims that she was contacted by the president on Saturday. Only to have that claim denied by the Elysée hours later.

Valérie Rabault, who leads the Socialist parliamentary group, says she has turned down the offer of a post. François Bayrou, leader of the centrist MoDem party, has expressed the wish that “all political viewpoints” should be represented in a team which will combine “coherence and competence”.

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