Macron Poised to Shuffle Government After Two Confusing Weeks
(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to unveil his new team after two weeks of confusion over the timing and scope of his cabinet shuffle fueled speculation of a split between him and his prime minister.
The reshuffle was set off by the Oct. 2 resignation of the interior minister, with Macron saying he would “take the necessary time, with calm” to make his choices. French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Monday that the team change would happen in the next 24 hours. The president’s office has given no indication of its plans.
Macron’s opponents say the team change will make little difference to the slide in his popularity in the 16 months he’s been in office. Surveys show that the messy resignation of his interior minister Gerard Collomb, a political heavyweight and one of his earliest backers, and the confusion surrounding the reorganization of the government have dented Macron’s reputation for running a tight ship.
Macron’s office has denied French media reports that he and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe disagreed over the extent of the reshuffle, over candidates and the constitutional tools to use to make the changes. Instead, it says the delay stems from the need to maintain a political and gender balance in the cabinet, and the vetting of all candidates to avoid repeating earlier resignations of ministers for tax reasons.
“There is much noise around the date but the government is in full form,” Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud said on France Inter radio on Sunday. “We’re not at a deadend but I can see how difficult it is for commentators to have no news for 10 days !”
Penicaud said she was confident she would be maintained in her position. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has been lobbying to keep his job, calling for continuity and stability to maintain the pace of reform.
For his part, the prime minister defended the government during the weekly parliamentary session Oct. 10. “I can assure you there is no weakness in this government, no impatience,” Philippe told lawmakers. “We are not backing down on any of the commitments made by the president.”
All that hasn’t ended speculation of discord. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that he believes the prime minister has been “arm wrestling” with the president, and that the delays show a “total weakening of the state.”
An Odoxa poll released Thursday found that 53 percent of the French thought the delay was “serious” because it showed discord between the president and prime minister. The same poll also showed that 55 percent of the French say they have more confidence in Philippe than Macron, with 29 percent saying they have more confidence in the president. The two men will have lunch today at the presidential palace.
Macron’s approval rating slid around 20 points over the spring and summer and is at about 30 percent. His popularity been hurt by a scandal over his bodyguard caught on video beating protesters, the abrupt late August resignation of Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot and a series of comments he had made that were interpreted to mean the French were lazy complainers.
“Macron’s trying to amuse the gallery, but no one is laughing,” Guillaume Peltier, the parliamentary whip for The Republicans, the largest opposition party, said Oct. 10 on France 2 television. “The French aren’t interested in the casting, but in the fundamentals.”
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