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France's Macron to present Legion of Honour to former PM Edouard Philippe

French President Emmanuel Macron and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France June 29, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France June 29, 2020. REUTERS - CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

In a ceremony postponed from last autumn because of the health crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron will on Tuesday present the medal of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour to his former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, now mayor of the western port city of Le Havre.

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Since 2008, any prime minister who manages to hold onto the job for at least two years, is automatically honoured with the status of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, the French republic's fourth highest award. Edouard Philippe was prime minister for more than three years.

What is unusual about Tuesday's ceremony is that the medal will be presented personally, at the official presidential residence in Paris. It is normal for former prime ministers to receive their awards through the post.

Among those invited to attend on Tuesday are the current Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, the Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu, and right-wing former prime minister and presidential contender, Alain Juppé.

Edouard Philippe, who says he hopes to bring "some serious ideas" to the forthcoming presidential campaign, will make a speech, as will President Macron.

An heir or a replacement?

Tuesday's ceremony is being seen by some political commentators in the context of next year's elections.

Edouard Philippe has already been accused of ambivalent political gestures by some members of the ruling majority.

Currently touring French bookshops to promote his latest book, the former prime minister has frequently been seen with local political figures, but only those from the centre-right. 

According to one anonymous minister, people are wondering what Philippe is playing at. "What page is he on," wonders the unnamed source, quoted by the 24-hour news channel, FranceInfo. "Edouard Philippe is only to be seen in public with candidates or representatives of the centre-right."

To which the office of the mayor of Le Havre simply replies, "we don't ask for anything. It's the candidates who come to us."

There remain those inside the ruling majority who wonder just how loyal Edouard Philippe will remain to Emmanuel Macron, especially in the wake of upcoming regional elections.

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