France’s Macron seeks minister of critical interior portfolio as Collomb fights to quit
Issued on: Modified:
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb issued a direct challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, telling a newspaper he wanted to step down despite the president having rejected his resignation less than 24 hours earlier.
Collomb, 71, a former Socialist party stalwart who became one of Macron’s earliest and most eager backers, told the conservative Le Figaro newspaper he wanted to resign so he could run for election as mayor of his hometown Lyon.
“The French people and the people of Lyon need clarity, so I maintain my offer to resign,” Collomb responded when asked whether he would stay on as interior minister now that Macron had turned down his resignation.
“Considering the rumours and the pressure, I don’t want the fact I will be a candidate somewhere tomorrow to affect the way forward for the interior ministry,” he said.
The comments were seen by critics as an unprecedented challenge to Macron’s authority, coming just weeks after the 40-year-old centrist was forced to replace his both his popular environment minister and the sports minister.
Incredible battle of wills going on in French politics. Interior minister Gerard Collomb wants to resign but Macron is saying no. Now Collomb is saying he really, really wants to go.... Collomb was one of Macron's biggest backers. #FranceLuke Baker (@BakerLuke) October 2, 2018
Two weeks ago, Collomb announced plans via a newspaper interview to quit the government and run for mayor of Lyon in 2020, returning to a position he has held before.
He initially indicated he would resign after European elections in May 2019. But opposition rivals said the comments undermined his legitimacy as the head of one of the most sensitive portfolios in France, where Islamist militants have killed hundreds of people since 2012.
French gov, for the past few days:Pauline Bock (@PaulineBock) October 2, 2018
Home Sec Collomb to Macron: I quit
Macron: no you don't
Collomb: yes I do
An official at the Elysee Palace said Macron had asked Prime Minister Edouard Philippe for a list of names to replace Collomb, suggesting the interior minister would not stay much longer.
Collomb had in recent weeks been critical of Macron, speaking of a “lack of humility” in the president’s administration and dismissing expressions often used by Macron, such as “start-up nation”, as out of touch with common folk.
Only a week ago, presidential advisers said Macron had made clear to Collomb that the timing of his resignation would be decided by the president himself, who is regarded as running a tight ship with heavy demands on time and loyalty.
Macron’s approval ratings have plunged to about 30 percent, from around 60 percent shortly after he was elected in May 2017. Critics say his policies favour the rich and his personal manner is often described as aloof and arrogant.
Macron has said he is determined to do whatever it takes to overhaul the French economy and introduce other social reforms to put the country on a stronger path.