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French PM Édouard Philippe and his government resign as Macron prepares cabinet reshuffle

French PM Edouard Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris on June 29, 2020.
French PM Edouard Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris on June 29, 2020. © Christian Hartmann/Pool/AFP/Archives
2 min

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe resigned on Friday ahead of a government reshuffle by President Emmanuel Macron designed to bolster his green credentials and win back disillusioned voters ahead of a possible re-election bid.

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The Élysée Palace said in a statement that Philippe would handle government affairs until a new cabinet was named. It later said a new French prime minister would be named within the next few hours.

Questions over Philippe’s job have swirled since mid-June when Macron declared he wanted to “reinvent” his presidency.

In French government reshuffles, the prime minister tenders his or her resignation ahead of cabinet appointments but can still be re-named to the position. It was not immediately clear whether Philippe would be called upon to form the new government.

Macron’s move to refashion his centrist government comes after voters punished the former investment banker and his party in nationwide municipal elections.

The elections, which concluded Sunday in run-off votes long-delayed by coronavirus, revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Macron’s troubles with left-leaning voters.

>> Read more: After green wave in local elections, is France’s left back on track?

The only bright spot for Macron in the local elections was Philippe’s own victory in the northern port city of Le Havre.

With only 21 months until the next presidential election, Macron wants to reposition himself, close advisers say.

It would be a political gamble for Macron to replace Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the president, political analysts say. The prime minister has shown steadfast loyalty during waves of unrest and could emerge as a presidential rival in 2022.

'French presidents don't like to be outshone by their prime ministers', says France 24's Armen Georgian

But keeping Philippe in office could be problematic too. It could suggest that Macron was too weak to let go of his prime minister and that his young party lacked the depth to allow for a full-blooded cabinet overhaul.

Moreover, Macron poached Philippe from the centre-right opposition and holding onto him would complicate winning back leftist voters.

The president told La Montagne newspaper on Thursday, “The new phase entails new goals of independence, reconstruction, reconciliation and new methods. Behind that there will be a new team.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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