France’s Macron blends political left and right to concoct administration
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Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron kept his pledge to form a government with both left- and right-wing politicians, unveiling a cabinet on Wednesday that threatens to throw the country’s established parties into disarray.
The names of France’s 18 newest ministers were read out loud from the steps of the Elysée Palace on Wednesday afternoon – an unorthodox mix that raised eyebrows and will force a few former political foes to gather under the same tent.
“Emmanuel Macron kept his promise, meaning a few ministers from the political left, a few from the right, a few from the centre, and a few non-politicians,” said FRANCE 24’s politics editor Roselyne Febre, also noting that France’s new 39-year-old president had chosen to “hand the keys of the economy” to conservatives.
The most important government job was already delegated to the moderate conservative Edouard Philippe last week. The mayor of the western port city of Le Havre was not a prominent member of the main opposition Les Républicains party, but was shot to fame when Macron made him prime minister.
Fellow Les Républicains member Bruno Le Maire – who mounted an eventually unsuccessful bid for the party’s presidential nomination last autumn – has now followed suit. A former junior minister for European affairs under former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, Le Maire was tapped for the all-important Finance Ministry.
Another conservative, Gérald Darmanin, was picked as budget minister. The 34-year-old Darmanin is a relative unknown, but as a protégé of Sarkozy serves as proof of Macron’s ability to bring politicians of all stripes into his fold.
Perhaps in a bid to stem future defections, Les Républicains leader Bernard Accoyer promptly announced members who had joined Macron’s government should consider themselves booted out of the party.
From defence to foreign ministry
Macron’s budding administration also welcomed prominent one-time members of France’s ruling Socialist Party, in a move that could speed up the left-wing camp’s disintegration.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, Socialist president François Hollande’s defence chief for five years, was named France’s foreign minister, while Lyon Mayor Gérard Collomb will take over the Interior Ministry.
Lawmaker Richard Ferrand, who served as one of Macron’s de facto spokesmen during much of the presidential campaign, was named minister of “territorial integration”.
From France’s established centrist MoDem party, François Bayrou was named Justice Minister and Sylvie Goulard was called to oversee the Defence Ministry, making her the second woman in France’s history to be in charge of its formidable nuclear-armed military.
Book publisher and fencer
Macron also made good on the promise to include a slate of non-politicians into his government and to respect gender parity. Wednesday’s much-anticipated cabinet list included nine women and nine men.
Men nevertheless dominated the most important ministries, with Goulard being the exception as Defence Minister. Furthermore, two of the nine women were only appointed to junior minister roles: Elisabeth Borne to Transport and Marielle de Sarnez to European Affairs.
According to FRANCE 24’s Febre, the day’s “biggest surprise” was Nicolas Hulot’s appointment as environment minister. “It’s a big catch, because many previous presidents had asked him to join their governments, but he had always turned them down,” she said.
Hulot, who first gained prominence as a journalist and TV host, has in recent years devoted himself to environmental causes.
A book publisher and an Olympic fencing champion were also among the surprise picks for ministerial duties.
Françoise Nyssen, who runs the independent but growing French publishing company Actes Sud, will take over as culture minister. Laura Flessel, a five-time Olympic medallist fencer and France's flag-bearer at the London 2012 Games, is France’s new sports minister.