Bruno Le Maire, former French agriculture minister during the MEDEF business conference in France.(Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg)

Macron Taps Republican Le Maire for French Finance Ministry

(Bloomberg) -- President Emmanuel Macron recruited Republican lawmaker Bruno Le Maire as finance minister, scoring a victory in his effort to draw support from the France’s mainstream right and assigning a fluent German speaker to rebuild economic credibility in Europe.

Among 16 ministers appointed Wednesday, European lawmaker Sylvie Goulard, a centrist, was named defense minister and Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian will take the helm at the renamed ministry of Europe and foreign affairs, signaling the new administration’s commitment to the European Union.

Macron, who was elected 10 days ago on a centrist, pro-EU program, needs members of France’s Republican party to show that his administration won’t just be a re-run of his unpopular predecessor Francois Hollande’s. The 39-year-old president is aiming for a majority in parliamentary elections in June and the Republicans represent the political force most capable of preventing that.

“This government is mostly anchored with the center and the right,” said Jean-Daniel Levy, a pollster at Harris Interactive in Paris. “The fracture on the right is already apparent and it will become more so.”

Gerard Collomb, the mayor of Lyon and a longtime Macron backer, was named interior minister and No. 2 in the government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Television presenter Nicolas Hulot was recruited to the ecology ministry and Gerald Darmanin, another Republican, was named budget minister.

“The appointments of Le Maire and Darmanin are a real coup,” said Antonio Barroso, a political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London. “The choice of Le Maire is also probably aimed at sending a strong signal to Germany about Macron’s commitment to reform.”

Macron Taps Republican Le Maire for French Finance Ministry

Francois Baroin, head of the Republican campaign for next month’s legislative elections, said he regretted losing Philippe, Le Maire and Darmanin.

“The three of them are gone, it’s their choice,” Baroin told Agence France-Presse. “I regret it on a personal level without calling our friendship into question.”

The Republican party said it is expelling all three.

Rural Voters

Macron has also emphasized the need to revive cooperation among EU countries and his cabinet is notable because it contains three fluent German speakers -- Philippe, Le Maire and Goulard. Le Drian, who as a minister under Hollande oversaw two wars in Africa while selling French jet fighters and submarines, has also worked extensively with Germany.

With an eye on the National Front’s strength in rural areas, Macron named his close ally Richard Ferrand minister for regional cohesion.

“Macron is showing he understood the extent to which the National Front’s gains were made in rural France,” said Nicolas Lebourg, an analyst at the Fondation Jean Jaures. “It’s a structural problem completely ignored by Hollande and this government is tackling it from the start.”

Macron will hold his first cabinet meeting Thursday.