The move right: What Macron’s government reshuffle means for France

With a new cabinet full of rightwing stalwarts, French President Emmanuel Macron is betting that his 2022 re-election hopes are best built on a conservative base that wants economic recovery to be the priority, analysts say.

The move right: What Macron's government reshuffle means for France
With his new government Macron has chosen a tilt to the right, analysts say. Photo: AFP

After his centrist party's rout in municipal elections last month that saw a surge by the Greens, speculation was rife that Macron would at least give a nod to environmental and progressive forces in a long-expected reshuffle.

Yet nearly all his new picks came from the right, in particular the socially conservative, pro-business wing personified by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.

New Prime Minister Jean Castex – a low-profile civil servant described as a “Swiss army knife” for his ability to get France's ponderous administrations to move quickly – was Sarkozy's deputy chief of staff.

The surprise choice for culture, Roselyne Bachelot, was health minister during his term, while star lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti, now justice minister, is a close associate of the former president.

And Gerald Darmanin, a former Sarkozy spokesman who served as deputy to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire – also a former Sarkozy minister – was promoted to interior minister.

“It's clearly giving key figures from the right the most prestigious jobs,” said Pascal Perrineau, a veteran political scientist at the Sciences Po university in Paris.

READ ALSO: Macron replaces key ministers in French government revamp, but is it really a major shift?


Analysts also noted that two of Macron's earliest and most loyal supporters from the left, Christophe Castaner and Sibeth Ndiaye, were ousted from their posts as interior minister and government spokeswoman to make room for the new entrants.

The president also parted ways with his justice, agriculture and labour ministers, all on the left.

Newspaper editorials were unanimous Tuesday in playing up Macron's rightward tack.

“Heading for starboard!” Le Figaro wrote on its front page, while leftwing L'Humanite said “Macron Act II is the late follow-up to Sarkozy Act I.

Roselyne Bachelot on Monday took over the culture department from ex-minister Franck Reister (left). Photo: AFP

'No resources'

Macron's move to pick off key conservatives from the Republicans (LR) opposition party also confirms the thin bench of his own Republic on the Move (LREM), which has turned out few homegrown standouts since taking control of parliament in 2017.

“The LREM remains an empty shell that is really a big handicap — It's hard to be a good director of human resources when you don't have the resources,” Paul Quinio wrote in Liberation.


Liberation made waves last month with a massive front page picture that merged Macron's face with Sarkozy's easily recognisable coiffure, after Macron urged the French to “work harder” for the country's post-coronavirus recovery – echoing a trademark Sarkozy phrase.

“Emmanuel Macron realises the LREM has not been able to produce any heavyweights,” Perrineau said, predicting centrist lawmakers would play an even smaller role in Macron's governing plans for the last two years of his term.

The LREM lost its absolute parliamentary majority to defections earlier this year, though it maintains voting alliances with the traditional MoDem centrists.

Republicans leaders tried to play down suggestions that Macron could win over other rightwing lawmakers as he plots his 2022 re-election campaign, when he is widely expected to again face off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“If his politics boil down to a cynical show, a simple tactic of poaching individuals, it's pretty sad,” deputy party chief Guillaume Peltier told Franceinfo radio.

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French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

After a second day in which more than a million people took to the streets of France to protest over planned pension reform, unions have announced further strike days.

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

France’s eight main trades unions federations made a joint announcement on Tuesday night of fresh strike days – Tuesday, February 7th and Saturday, February 11th. 

Tuesday marks the day that the highly controversial pension reform – which includes raising the pension age from 62 to 64 – is presented to the French parliament for the first time.

Both days are likely to see significant disruption, particularly on public transport.

The mass strike on Tuesday saw trains and city public transport services heavily disrupted, while many schools closed as teachers walked out.

Demos held in towns and cities across France saw a huge turnout – more than 1.1 million people, an increase on the turnout on the first day of pension strikes.

READ ALSO ‘We won’t stop until Macron is defeated’ say French pension demonstrators

You can find all the latest news on strikes and service disruptions in our strike section HERE.