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Key Macron ally François Bayrou quits French government

Geoffroy Van der Hasselt, AFP (archives) | François Bayrou and Marielle de Sarnez leave the Élysée presidential palace on June 25, 2017..
3 min

France's justice minister, who was preparing a draft law to clean up politics but whose party is targeted for possible investigation, resigned on Wednesday to avoid compromising President Emmanuel Macron's government, according to French media.


The resignations of Francois Bayrou and fellow party member Marielle de Sarnez, the minister for European affairs, came a day after the defense minister, Sylvie Goulard, stepped down for similar reasons. A fourth minister shadowed by conflict-of-interest allegations left his Cabinet post for a parliamentary job.

The resignations came hours before a planned Cabinet reshuffle that was initially expected to concern adjustments and now must involve major changes. The defense and justice ministries are at the top of the government hierarchy.

The defense and European affairs ministers are from Bayrou's small centrist Modem party, which is allied with Macron's Republic on the Move! party. Modem is under investigation for allegedly using aides receiving European Parliament salaries to perform work for the party.

The resignation of Goulard on Tuesday put pressure on the justice minister, who was in charge of promoting a draft law on "restoring trust" in politics. Bayrou and de Sarnez told French media on Wednesday that they are leaving the government to allow Macron to push his goal of cleaning house.

De Sarnez pulled out of the government just days after winning a seat in the powerful National Assembly in Sunday's parliamentary elections. She will now preside over Modem party lawmakers in the chamber, French media reported.

Like the ex-defense minister, Bayrou and de Sarnez could become subjects of investigations over the use of parliamentary assistants who were improperly paid.

A fourth government member facing an unrelated investigation also announced Tuesday he was leaving his post as minister for territorial cohesion to lead the group of lawmakers elected under the banner of Macron's party at the National Assembly, the lower chamber of parliament.

Richard Ferrand said on RTL radio that the new position is a "strategic job" and a "sign of confidence" from Macron.

Ferrand could face investigation for alleged conflict of interest related to his past business practices. He denies doing anything illegal, but acknowledges some old habits are no longer accepted by the public.

Macron, elected as president on May 7, has promised to inject ethics into French politics, peppered with corruption, to restore the credibility of the political class in the eyes of the people. Ethics in politics became a top subject after former conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon's presidential bid very publicly collapsed after reports surfaced that he paid his wife for work as a parliamentary aide that she allegedly did not perform.


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