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French PM announces he will resign if Macron is re-elected

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday that his government would tender its resignation if Emmanuel Macron is re-elected president, in a bid to provide a "new impetus" for Macron's centrist party ahead of parliamentary elections in June.

French PM announces he will resign if Macron is re-elected
French Prime Minister Jean Castex. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

If he is re-elected, “in the subsequent days, as is the tradition, I will present the president with my resignation and that of the government,” Castex told France Inter radio.

“I’m among those who think a new impetus should be found after the president’s re-election,” he added.

Macron is facing a close race in the run-off on Sunday against far-right veteran Marine Le Pen, with analysts warning that low turnout could prove a wildcard even though most polls show Macron in the lead.

The parliamentary vote in June will be a further test of Macron’s popularity, and renewing his majority will be essential for pursuing his reformist agenda, including an overhaul of the pensions system that would require most people to work longer before retiring.

The resignation of Castex would allow Macron to reshuffle his cabinet and bring in new ministers from outside the government.

There has been speculation that European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde could be offered the post of prime minister, although she sidestepped a question on the issue at a press conference last week.

Opinion polls currently put the centrist Macron at 53 to 56 percent in the run-off against 44 to 47 percent for Le Pen, in a much tighter finish than in 2017, when the same candidates faced, off but Macron carried the vote with 66 percent.

“The game isn’t over yet and we certainly can’t draw conclusions… that this election, this match, is already decided,” Castex said. “We have to convince the French that Emmanuel Macron’s programmes are the best for France and for them.”

Macron and Le Pen will face off Wednesday evening in their first televised debate of the campaign, which could prove critical for winning over millions of voters, in particular on the left, who have told polling firms they remain undecided.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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