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ELECTION

Macron unveils first government and leaves French right fuming

Newly installed French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled his first government on Wednesday with the left, the right, the centre and ecologists all represented in his first government.

Macron unveils first government and leaves French right fuming
Photo: AFP

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  • Macron unveils first centrist government featuring figures from left and right and a famous ecologist
  • The government is also balanced between men and women
  • Macron’s government also features several figures from civil society
  • However only one of top five roles went to a woman

Macron named his government on Wednesday which featured figures from the right, the left, the centre, a famous ecologist and an Olympic fencing champion.

The government contains 18 ministers and four secretaries of state with the gender divide split evenly.

Macron and his Prime Minister Philippe Edouard named Bruno Le Maire from the right-wing Republicans party as the minister for economy.

Le Maire had been touted as possible member of the cabinet in recent days and is one of three members of the Republicans party in Macron’s government along with Prime Minister Philippe.

Another figure from the right adopted into Macron’s 22-strong government is Gerald Darmanin, who is named as minister of public accounts.

The naming of two conservatives naturally irked those on the right.

François Baroin who is leading the Republicans’ parliamentary elections campaign said: “They have gone, it’s their choice, it belongs to them.”

The Republicans later sent out a statement calling the government “confusing”. The party also confirmed that those members who had joined Macron’s Republic en Marche (REM) party are no longer part of the Republicans.

Socialist party stalwart and veteran of François Hollande’s government Jean-Yves Le Drian remains in the government but moves over from defence minister to Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Renowned ecologist and former TV star Nicolas Hulot has been named Minister of Ecology. Hulot has been touted as a minister in every government over recent years so it is somewhat of a coup for Macron to persuade him to join his cabinet.

He is the most famous face MAcron has brought in from civic society, which was one of his pledges.

Macron’s long term ally Gerard Collomb, the mayor of Lyon, is named interior minister and centrist François Bayrou, who joined forces with Macron at a crucial point in the campaign was named minister for justice.

Sylvie Goulard an MEP with Bayrou’s MoDem party was named defence minister.

Goulard has been praised for her experience of the EU institutions and helped organise Macron’s trip to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel during the election campaign.

Other women named as part of the government include Agnès Busain as minister for solidarity and health, Muriel Penicaud as minister of labour and Françoise Nyseen, a publisher, as culture minister.

Annick Girardin, another surviving member of Hollande’s government, has been named minister of overseas territories and former Olympic fencing champion Laura Flessel from Guadaloupe is another member of civic society drafted into the government. She becomes the minister of sport.

READ ALSO: Who’s who: All you need to know about Macron’s new government

Who's who: All you need to know about Macron's 'balanced' French government

 

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tweeted out “Government named. Now let’s get to work.” The government’s first cabinet meeting will be held on Thursday.

On the campaign trail ahead of his election on May 7, Macron pledged a slimmed-down group of ministers of around 15 people, half of them women and including people from outside politics.

Macron had delayed announcing the names on Tuesday with the official reason given that it was due to the need to carry out more extensive screening of candidates. However many suggested it may have been because of disagreements with his PM Edouard Philippe.

Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, is seeking to attract support from the right-wing Republicans party and appointed a prime minister from their ranks, Edouard Philippe, on Monday.

READ ALSO: Why is Macron naming government now and not after June’s elections?

Why does France's president name a PM and government before June's crucial elections?

France’s youngest ever president has already attracted dozens of Socialist MPs to his side as he seeks to create a new centrist force in French politics that will marginalise the traditional parties of left and right.

He is eyeing parliamentary elections in June when he hopes his new Republique En Marche (REM) party will win a majority, giving him the freedom to enact his ambitious reform programme.

In his busy first week, Macron is also set to meet EU Council President Donald Tusk in Paris on Wednesday as he tackles his top foreign priority of reforming the European Union.

The meeting was pushed back at the last-minute from its scheduled time of midday until the evening.

Tusk was one of the first prominent European voices to congratulate Macron on his May 7 presidential election runoff victory over far-right and anti-EU politician Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who ran a staunchly pro-European campaign, kept with tradition by visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday in his first trip abroad after taking office.

The pair now at the centre of the European project vowed to give it new impetus, saying they were ready to change treaties if necessary.

Macron has urged a deepening of the EU to fight off a recent surge of populism on the continent.

ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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