French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigns along with ministers

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has resigned along with the government, the presidential palace announced on Friday.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigns along with ministers

On Friday morning Philippe presented his resignation and that of his government, which was accepted by the president, the Elysée Palace said on Friday.

No reason was given in the short statement, but a cabinet reshuffle had been widely expected after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to chart a new course for the last two years of his term.

Macron later named senior French official Jean Castex, best known of heading the strategy of easing France out of the strict nationwide lockdown, as the new Prime Minister.

Philippe's popularity among the French public had been rising in recent weeks in contrast to that of Macron.

A recent poll suggested 57 percent of the French wanted Philippe to stay on as PM.

On Sunday he won re-election to his mayoral seat in the northern port town of Le Havre.

Macron told the regional press on Thursday that la rentrée, meaning the return to work in September after the summer holidays “will be extremely difficult”.

“We need to be prepared,” Macron said.

Macron said that his relationship with Philippe was “historic” and that the PM had done a “remarkable job” as leader of the government.
In theory Philippe can name a stand-in for the mayor's post so he can remain prime minister, though Macron may prefer to burnish his social justice credentials with a more centrist or leftwing pick.
Macron said there would a “new team” would lead the “reconstruction” of the country, but did not say who would be part of it.
Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party failed to notch up any significant victory in the second round of Sunday's municipal elections that had been postponed for over three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron has promised that the second part of is presidency would take note of failings during the first.

'A clear signal'

“Right now there's a paradox: the French like their prime minister a lot, but they don't like the government's policies,” he said.

Jeremy Ghez, an associate professor at the Paris business school HEC told The Local: “Changing the government is the best way historically to show that you want to change political course.” 

For the next and final phase of his government, Macron would need to redirect its focus towards incorporating more green policies, Ghez said, pointing to the green surge in the local elections as “a clear signal” from the French. 

“Macron has shown that he is capable of reinventing himself, but the problem is that, more often than not, the result is politics as usual,” Ghez said.

'Macron thinks the same as me'
The president appointed Philippe has his PM shortly after winning the president election in May 2017.
Philippe came from the progressive wing of the centre-right Republicans party and his appointment was seen as a crucial factor in helping Macron win support from the centre-right that helped propel his new La Republique en Marche (LREM) party towards a huge majority in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Philippe was an unknown face in 2017, but was highly thought of among a section of the right, notably former presidential favourite and one-time PM Alain Juppé.

He and Macron have similar backgrounds. They both studied at Sciences-Po university as well as at the Ecole National d'Administration (ENA), the prestigious grande école where many of France's future leaders are trained.

The two first met at a dinner in 2011.

In 2016 Philippe told journalists that “Macron thinks 90 percent the same way as me”.

“I like him because he is a nice and intelligent person,” said Philippe at the time.



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OPINION: Macron’s speech revealed his long game for France, but is it a game he can win?

In the wake of Emmanuel Macron's (unusually brief) speech to the nation and an orgy of blame and speculation, John Lichfield takes a look at how the turbulent months ahead are likely to play out in France.

OPINION: Macron's speech revealed his long game for France, but is it a game he can win?

In eight minutes on Wednesday evening, we saw the best of Emmanuel Macron and the worst of Emmanuel Macron. In his TV address to the nation, he was confident; he was solemn; above all he was brief.

He accepted that the hung parliament elected last Sunday reflected “deep divisions” in the country. He said that France  must “learn to govern differently…We must build new compromises…based on dialogue, open-mindedness and respect”.

But he failed to admit any share of responsibility in the impasse which voters have created. He said that he still had a “clear mandate” from his Presidential victory in April. He called for compromise but said that some of his own promises – no new taxes, no increased debt – were untouchable.

Hear more analysis from John and The Local team in our Talking France podcast.

In April, Macron acknowledged that he had won partly through the votes of people who disliked him but feared Marine Le Pen more. He promised to govern with them in mind. He hasn’t.

His alliance drifted through the parliamentary campaign without strongly defending Macron’s presidential programme, let alone coming up with new ideas to appease the voters, of Right or Left, who supported him on April 24th by default.

That is not the only reason for the mess that France is now in. Other factors played a part: voter fatigue; inflation; the perpetual French instinct to demand “change” but resist all changes; a campaign which largely ignored the gathering threats in the world outside.

France now finds itself, by accident, in a world which the present generation of French politicians have never known – a German, Italian, Spanish or Belgian world of coalitions, compromise and shifting alliances.

This was the world – a world of revolving-door governments –  which Charles de Gaulle devised the Presidency-dominated Fifth Republic to replace. Some argue that the return of parliamentary power will be A Good Thing.

It will generate more profound political debate and a culture of constructive compromise. I doubt it. The new National Assembly – with nine political groups, including large blocs from the Hard Left and Far Right – will be more bear-pit than Periclean Athens.

There has been a witch-hunt going on in the French media about who is “responsible” for the fact that Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National leaped from 8 seats to 89 in the new Assembly.

READ ALSO Is there really a ‘voter surge’ to the far-right in France?

The Left, both in France and abroad, has blamed President Macron’s Ensemble! alliance for failing to give clear advice to its supporters last Sunday to vote for the Left in two-way, second round contests with Lepennist candidates. As a result, they say Le Pen won at least 30 seats which might have gone to the Left-Green alliance, Nupes.

They fail to point out – and the French media has only belatedly started to point out – that exactly the same thing happened, only more so, with those Left voters who faced second round races between Macron and Le Pen candidates. Almost 60 percent of the Far Right victories – 53 – came in two-way contests  between the Rassemblement National and Macron’s Ensemble! alliance.

Exit polls vary but all of them suggest that voters of the Left  abstained, or even voted for Le Pen candidates, to “screw Macron” more than Macron voters abstained or voted Le Pen to “screw” the Left.

In effect, the Macron alliance and the Left-Green alliance shot themselves collectively in the feet by abandoning the so-called Republican Front against Le Pen. Each might have won at least 30 extra seats if both had voted for one another. The Macron alliance might even have just scraped a majority – which is presumably what Left-Green voters wanted to prevent.

A similar hue and cry is in progress against the Macron camp for its alleged willingness to work with Le Pen and her deputies in the new parliament. There has been some loose talk by some Macron allies. Most senior Macron lieutenants have ruled out deals or alliances with the Far Right bloc.

But what of Macron himself, who asked Marine Le Pen when they met on Tuesday whether she would contemplate joining a government of national unity? He asked the same of most of the party-leaders he met.

All refused and as Macron said in his eight-minute address, the idea is impractical and unjustified.

Why raise it at all then? Especially with Le Pen?

Partly, I think, because Macron believes that as President of the Republic he cannot pretend that the 89 Far Right deputies do not exist. Partly, I believe that Macron is playing a would-be clever waiting game.

He sees no real prospect of a long-term alliance with the 64 centre-right deputies. He expects in the short term to conduct  urgent business – including a new anti-inflation package  -through ad hoc alliances with the centre-right and moderate Left.

In the longer term, he believes (and maybe hopes) that such cooperation is doomed to fail. He wants to be seen to have given all combinations of parliamentary peace a chance before he “declares war” and calls a new legislative election next year.

Hence last night’s message. What are all the groups in parliament – including the three Macron-supporting ones – prepared to concede to allow the vital business of government to continue?

It might have been smarter politics if Macron had said, more clearly, that he also is ready to make concessions and listen to other people’s ideas.