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Castaner: Macron’s new interior minister, a signal to France’s disgruntled leftists

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | Christophe Castaner in June 2017 in Carpentras, France

The promotion of Christophe Castaner from ruling party chief to France’s interior minister on Tuesday is viewed as a sop to leftists unhappy with French President Emmanuel Macron’s perceived rightward slide.

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The suspense lasted exactly two weeks following the October 2 resignation of political veteran Gérard Collomb as France’s interior minister. On Tuesday, Macron finally announced Collomb's resignation.

Castaner, the 52-year-old head of the ruling Republic on the Move party (LREM) and an early Macron loyalist, will now replace Collomb.

An unknown figure grabs national spotlight

After more than 30 years in the Socialist Party, Castaner joined Macron’s political movement early in 2017, a few months before the French presidential election, which saw the young centrist presidential candidate voted into power.

Born in Ollioules in the Var department of the Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France, Castaner was a parliamentarian for the region from 2012 to 2017, a period that saw him switch camps from the Socialist Party to the newly formed En Marche movement.

Viewed as a Macron loyalist, Castaner embodied the political transformation that led Macron to the Élysée presidential palace. A largely unknown figure, he quickly gained a place in the national spotlight as the spokesman for the new government -- a role for which his velvety voice and faint Provencal accent proved an asset. In Macron’s first government, he became secretary of state for parliamentary relations.

Appointed “the boss" of the ruling party in early November 2017, he quit his post as presidential spokesman, a job given to Benjamin Griveaux, while remaining in the government as Secretary of State. This double role was criticised by his opponents who feared he would not have the time to handle parliamentary affairs.

‘No entertainment, no Christmas’

Castaner’s appointment as interior minister is viewed as a signal to the Left following widespread criticism that Macron’s policies on the economy as well as immigration have been more right-leaning than centrist.

Born on January 3, 1966, Castaner is the son of a military man and had a somewhat austere childhood. "My father served in Indochina and Algeria," he told French daily Le Monde. "He was a 'Monsieur No' -- no to expenses and definitely entertainment... I do not even remember a Christmas."

At the head of the interior ministry, Castaner is charged with implementing immigration policies, a thorny issue in Europe, which has seen the rise of populist, anti-immigrant parties and movements. Immigration is set to become a major issue in the May 2019 European parliamentary elections and France’s new immigration minister can expect a packed schedule in the months to come.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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