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Behind the resignation of Macron's longtime ally, interior minister Collomb

Michel Euler, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron (R) sits next to Interior Minister Gérard Collomb as he leads a cabinet meeting on August 3, 2018, at the Élysée Palace in Paris.
Michel Euler, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron (R) sits next to Interior Minister Gérard Collomb as he leads a cabinet meeting on August 3, 2018, at the Élysée Palace in Paris.

France's Emmanuel Macron has accepted the resignation of his interior minister Gérard Collomb, one his earliest and staunchest supporters. France 24 takes a closer look at the reasons behind the deterioration of their relationship.

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The close political relationship that bloomed in 2016 between France’s young president-to-be Emmanuel Macron and longtime mayor of Lyon Gérard Collomb started to sour in the spring of 2018, when the interior minister expressed doubts about the government’s plan to reduce speed limits on secondary roads across France. A deft politician who has continuously held various forms of elected office since 1977, Collomb’s brand of old-school proximity with electors seemed to clash with Macron’s sometimes high-handed style of governance.

The relationship further declined this summer over a scandal surrounding Macron’s former security aide Alexandre Benalla. The former bodyguard was filmed roughing up protesters while wearing a police helmet, and a vast political scandal blew up when it emerged that senior officials had known about it and kept it quiet. Appearing at a parliamentary inquiry, Collomb pointed blame at Macron’s office, saying it was their responsibility to report the incident to prosecutors.

Macron's interior minister resigns

As political and economic difficulties piled on following the return from summer break, Gérard Collomb pointed to, during an interview, the executive branch's “lack of humility” in the face of growing frustration and dissatisfaction with the government from the French population. A former teacher in classical literature, the interior minister evoked the dangers of hubris, “the Gods’ curse”.

“When, at some point, you become too sure of yourself, you start believing you can smash everything in your path”, Collomb said on French news channel BFMTV in September, adding that the government should “pay more attention to the French”. In a behind-the-scenes gathering with the press, the interior minister warned that if “everyone were to bow down to the president, he will end up isolating himself, as the Élysée palace isolates by its very nature”.

The final blows to Macron’s authority and style of governance followed the same month, when Collomb announced via French weekly news magazine L'Express his intention to run for a fourth term as mayor of Lyon, France’s third-largest city, in 2020. He added that he would resign as interior minister in spring 2019, a decision ultimately hastened by the deteriorating climate.

First elected as mayor of Lyon under the Socialist Party banner in 2001, Collomb kept a close eye on local affairs even after becoming one of Macron’s highest-ranking cabinet members. His final decision, announced through an astonishing back-and-forth in French newspaper Le Figaro, thus comes as no real surprise.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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