Jean Castex, known in France up until now as “Mr Déconfinement”, was named as the candidate to replace Edouard Philippe, who stepped down on Friday.
“The president of the Republic has named Jean Castex as prime minister and mandated him to form a government,” the presidency said in a brief statement.
Reports say Macron met with Castex earlier this week to discuss the nomination. The new prime minister was set to appear on prime time TV on Friday night to be interviewed for the first time in his new post.
The French government resigned Friday ahead of a cabinet reshuffle that President Emmanuel Macron says will set out a “new course” as the country grapples with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Castex, 55, has never been a minister in government and is relatively unknown in France. He did at least come to people's attention in May when he was tasked with drawing up the policy for easing the country out of lockdown back to normality, hence his nickname “Mr Deconfinement”.
On Twitter John Lichfield, a political columnist for The Local suggested the appointment was designed to help the president appear all powerful for the remaining two years of the presidency.
“New French pm will be Jean Castex, 55, never before a minister. He is the senior official in charge France's Covid response. Absolutely confirms my theory that real PM will be Macron with Castex as faceless manager,” he said.
New French pm will be Jean Castex, 55, never before a minister. He is the senior official in charge France's Covid response. Absolutely confirms my theory in story below that real PM will be Macron with Castex as faceless manager. https://t.co/O26DFuFJDL
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) July 3, 2020
Macron's ruling party reels from dire local election results and the president prepares to tackle the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has vowed to steer the country along a new course.
In an interview with regional newspapers published late Thursday, Macron said France must prepare for a “very difficult” economic crisis, “so we have to chart a new course.”
“I see this based on an economic, social, environmental and cultural reconstruction,” he said. “Behind this, there will be a new team.”
Castex is the man to lead that new team.
France's easing of its tight coronavirus lockdown, which began in stages back on May 11th, has generally been considered a success with health chiefs insisting this week the virus was under control and there was no imminent threat of a second wave.
Castex repeatedly warned however that if the virus returned the measures taken to ease lockdown would have to be reversed.
Castex has worked in various roles in and around government before but always in the background. He was an advisor to former President Nicolas Sarkozy who lost out on re-election to Francois Hollande in 2012.
He has also worked in the Ministry of Health under former minister Xavier Bertrand and is described as an expert in the field of health. Macron has vowed to focus efforts and money on restoring France's health service and hospitals in the final years of his presidency.
He now has the job of leading a new government which will be announced in the coming days.