Under-fire Macron delays cabinet reshuffle

Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a planned government reshuffle, prompting new questions his ability to keep his administration on track after several resignations.
Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a planned government reshuffle Wednesday, prompting new questions about the depth of political experience in his party and his own ability to keep his administration on track after several resignations.

The president and his prime minister have been weighing the reshuffle for a week following the departure of three ministers since late August, resignations that have challenged Macron’s authority and stalled his reform ambitions.

The 40-year-old faces multiple challenges in carrying out a significant revamp. Not only must he try to maintain the left-right balance that he made a hallmark of his centrist movement, but he must find strong candidates from among a relatively shallow and inexperienced pool of loyalists.

“The president wishes to take the time necessary to draw up a team in a calm and professional way,” the Elysee Palace said.

Ministers had expected the rejig before a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning. But the Elysee said it would not happen until after Macron returns from Armenia late on Friday.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire canceled traveling to Bali for an International Monetary Fund gathering to attend the cabinet session.

Macron’s popularity has sunk in recent months, falling to below 30 percent, as voters express frustration with a leader they often regard as arrogant and supportive of policies that benefit the wealthy. Impatience has also grown with the sluggish pace of economic growth and job creation.

Opponents branded the reshuffle a “tragic-comedy” that exposed a shortage of political experience in the ruling party.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told baying opposition lawmakers there was “no anxiety, no restlessness” inside an administration committed to social and economic reform. Tough policy reform to pensions and unemployment benefits loom.

A senior Elysee official dismissed reports of a rift between Macron and Philippe.

It was because Macron had reshaped the political landscape and brought in faces from outside politics that the process took longer, the official said.

“We’re no longer in an age where because someone has 15 years of service under their belt they deserve to become a minister,” the official said.

Macron’s rivals were not convinced.

“Macron’s ability to attract is pretty weak,” hard left lawmaker Alexis Corbiere said. “Many are asking themselves: ‘What should we do in this mess?’ They don’t want to be finished politically by becoming a minister in a government that risks descending into crisis in less than a year.”

In winning power in 2017, Macron and his En Marche movement demolished France’s mainstream parties.

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