Macron names centre-right politician Édouard Philippe as new PM

AFP | France's new premier Édouard Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron

President Emmanuel Macron named Édouard Philippe, 46, from the centre-right Les Républicains party as France’s new prime minister on Monday in what was widely seen as a bid to draw leading figures from the conservative opposition into his camp.


Philippe has been mayor of the northern port town of Le Havre since 2010 and an MP for the region since 2012. The one-time socialist is a member of Les Républicains centre-right party and is close to the moderate conservative ex-prime minister Alain Juppé.

“I am a man of the right,” Philippe declared on Monday during his first speech as France’s new prime minister and in the presence of his Socialist predecessor Bernard Cazeneuve. Macron’s PM nevertheless acknowledged that he and Cazeneuve shared similar backgrounds and a mutual interest in putting the wellbeing of all French people ahead of partisan politics.

“Édouard Philippe, who is a friend, is a man of considerable talent. He is a very popular mayor," said Alain Juppé shortly after Philippe’s appointment. “He is also an MP who knows the workings of parliament like the back of his hand. Therefore, he has, I believe, all the qualities necessary to take on this difficult role the president has just given him."

Macron’s spokesperson, Benjamin Griveaux, told Europe 1 radio early Monday that the new PM and president are acquainted and "like each other's intellectual honesty and rigour".

“He [Philippe] fits the job description perfectly … he has experience in parliament, and has demonstrated qualities and skills for the role,” Griveaux said.

By picking Philippe, Macron is hoping to attract other conservatives to his new centrist party La République en Marche, ahead of the legislative elections on June 11 and 18. Macron’s party, which promises a blend of left and right, will need to win a majority of the 577 seats available if the president is to push through his planned economic reforms.

On paper, both men have a lot in common. Like Macron and much of the French political establishment, Philippe attended the prestigious ENA grande école and shares many of the president’s ideas on the economy and society. He once campaigned for the Socialist Party (PS), which Macron belonged to from 2006-2009. Macron went on to work as economy minister under former socialist president François Hollande, but was not officially a member of the PS. 

Like Macron, Philippe is pro-European. He attended secondary school in Bonn, in Germany, and speaks fluent German.

A trained lawyer, he worked as public affairs director for the French state nuclear group Areva between 2007 and 2010.

In his new role, Philippe will be responsible for presiding over the government and carrying out the president's political programme. A close working relationship between both men will be key although Philippe has not always been conciliatory towards his new boss.

"For many people, who are intimidated by his powers of seduction and reformist rhetoric, Macron is the natural heir of Kennedy and Mendès-France [a former Socialist prime minister of France]. But that’s unlikely. The former was more charismatic, and the latter more principled,” he wrote in a newspaper article in January.

Philippe is married and has three children. He loves boxing and cold-water swimming and has written political fiction.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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