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The New French Government Unveiled: a Balancing Act

President Emmanuel Macron named Jean Castex last Friday – the man who organized France’s exit from its coronavirus confinement – as prime minister in a context of economic recession and erosion of the presidential party. The newly-appointed French PM unveiled tonight the composition of the new much awaited government.
The reshuffled French government, a complex process between integrity, diversity and efficiency

Forming the new government was not an easy task for the new prime minister.

Since several fraud scandals shook the French society in recent years, the first criterion when choosing a minister has been to ensure the executive power integrity. As a reminder, in 2013, Jérôme Cahuzac, a minister in charge of fighting against tax fraud was himself prosecuted for tax fraud.

More recently, in December 2019, the high commissioner in charge of the French pension system reform resigned after the disclosure of a potential conflict of interest by the newspapers Le Monde and Capital. In this regard, each nominee profile requires a detailed examination of his asset declarations, tax situation and criminal record.

Then, the second criterion is the diversity and the representativeness of the government. It has to be composed of as many women as men, to include if possible people of non-white origin.

Finally, the executive organ must also take into account the political sensitivities, first because Emmanuel Macron claims to be “either right nor left wing”, then because, the young generation asks for more ecology.

But beyond these stakes, Jean Castex is mainly in charge of forming an effective team. The health crisis has weakened the economy and brought rising unemployment while in the same time, the popularity of President Macron is stagnating (38% in June – Ifop survey). The new PM also inherits from the retirement reform which rose anger last winter and from the difficult mission to reunite the parliamentary majority.

The former Minister of the Interior, not anymore part of the government

Not surprisingly, Chirstophe Castaner, the former minister of Interior was not reappointed. According to an Ifop survey for the JDD carried out in June, the former minister faced the lower approval rate (27%) attributable to the severe repression against the yellow jacket movement. He was replaced by by Gérald Darmanin, the former minister of Public Action and Accounts. However, since 2018, Gerald Darmanin is under investigation for sexual harassment and rape charge.

As might be expected, the minister of Education mostly disliked by the French under the age of 50 (38% of positive opinion) remains in his position.

The Minister of Solidarity and Health – Olivier Vérand – and the Minister of the Economy and Finance – Bruno Le Maire – who have a strong public support (52% and 53%, respectively – Ifop survey) stay in office.
Roxana Mărăcineanu, a Romanian-born French former swimmer, remains in charge of the Ministry of Sports, but the ministry will be now attached to the Ministry of Education.

New political figures in the government – The great surprise

Among the new comers in the Mr Castex’s government, two personalities catch the attention.
Eric Dupond-Morreti, a criminal defence lawyer, was appointed Minister of Justice. He is quite famous and respected for his record number of acquittals but he is also a highly controversial figure.

Roselyne Bachelot, former minister of Health under Mr Sarkozy’s presidency was named as minister of Culture. In 2009, facing the H1N1 pandemic, she ordered 94 million doses of vaccine and 1.7 billion masks. Due to the few cases of infected persons, the stock was reduced leading the country to be poorly equipped at the beginning of the covid19 pandemic.

The first council of ministers will he held on Tuesday, 3pm (local time).
Note: Antoine Dewaest is working as an intern for G4Media, enhancing the understanding of the Romanian society. He is studying at Sciences Po Rennes, France.

Sources:

La Dépêche, Remaniement: les ministres que les Français veulent garder au gouvernement, 05/07/2020

France Info, Réforme des retraites : Jean-Paul Delevoye démissionne d’une fonction d’administrateur dans le secteur des assurances qu’il n’avait pas déclarée, 09/12/2019.

Le Monde, Dès l’annonce du gouvernement lundi, Jean Castex recevra les parlementaires de la majorité, 06/072020

Le Monde, Fisc, casier judiciaire… Comment l’intégrité des futurs ministres est vérifiée, 03/07/2020

LCI, Patrimoine, conflit d’intérêts, impôts… Que vérifie-t-on chez les futurs (et les anciens) ministres ?, 06/07/2020.

Le Figaro, Popularité : la cote de Macron stagne mais celle de Philippe grimpe encore, 21/06/2020.

Le Télégramme, Depuis les affaires Cahuzac et Thévenoud, des contrôles dès avant l’entrée au gouvernement, 03/07/2020

Le Point, Gouvernement Castex : Roselyne Bachelot, ministre majeure et vaccinée, 06/07/2020

France Info, En direct : le gouvernement de Jean Castex dévoilé, 06/07/2020

Le Figaro, EN DIRECT – Remaniement : passation de pouvoir entre Franck Riester et Roselyne Bachelot au ministère de la Culture, 06/07/2020

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