French president appoints Jean Castex as new prime minister
Jean Castex, a 55-year-old top civil servant not known to the French general public, was appointed new prime minister by President Emmanuel Macron to replace Edouard Philippe, the French presidential palace announced on Friday.
Castex, a member of the Republicans and former adviser of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, had been charged by Macron in April to oversee the country's gradual exit from the coronavirus lockdown.
"Accustomed to complex files", "unanimously praised for his interpersonal skills and his efficiency," Castex is dubbed as "Swiss knife" with multiple networks, according to French media.
The new prime minister has never been a minister before but is familiar with several ministries. He was director of hospitalization and organization of care at the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Cohesion in 2005-2006, then director of the cabinet for Xavier Bertrand twice -- first at the Ministry of Health (2006-2007) and then at the Ministry of Labor (2007-2008).
Sarkozy made him his social affairs adviser in 2010, then assistant general secretary (the second highest ranking official) of the Elysee Palace between 2011 and 2012.
Philippe, who had tendered his resignation earlier on Friday after heading President Macron's government for three years, won the race for mayor in the northern port city of Le Havre following the municipal polls last Sunday.
A wider cabinet reshuffle was expected to follow soon as Macron had announced that he would ensure a new phase of his presidency with a refreshed cabinet.
In an interview published late on Thursday, Macron said: "The new phase entails new goals of independence, reconstruction, reconciliation and new methods. Behind that, there will be a new team."
It is also common practice for a French president to replace a prime minister during the five-year term in office, French media reported.
Macron's La Republique en Marche party -- which he created in 2016 -- emerged from Sunday's municipal elections without winning a single major city, failing to gain a strong foothold at local level.
An Odoxa poll published on Thursday showed 75 percent of French citizens thought that Macron has to change policy, with two-thirds claiming a shift to a more ecological and social approach.