Macron and others
© AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron congratulates Jean Castex, named successor to the popular PM Édouard Philippe.
French President Emmanuel Macron replaced key ministers in a long-awaited government reshuffle, announced on Monday. But will they really plot a "new course" for France or are they more of the same?

Gerald Darmanin, until now budget minister, will replace much-criticised Christophe Castaner as interior minister, a troubled portfolio owing to alleged racism and violence among police forces.

Barbara Pompili, a former member of France's green party, will serve as the new environment minister instead of Elisabeth Borne.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Defence Minister Florence Parly and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire all kept their posts, top presidential aide Alexis Kohler told reporters at the Elysée Palace.

But government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye was also replaced.

Roselyn Bachelot, former health minister during the era of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy was assigned the post of culture minister. In her time as minister she was once mocked by the public for having ordered too many face masks over a flu outbreak .


Olivier Véran, who shepherded France through the worst of the coronavirus crisis, kept his job as minister of health.

'Not a major shift'

Analysts said the changes did not reflect a major shift nor a "new direction" as Macron had previously declared.

Jim Shields, professor of French Politics at the University of Warwick, told The Local that the reshuffle was "a balance between continuity and change," and that the reappointment of Le Maire and the new appointment of Darmanin respectively reflected "a nod to the right" and a "further not to the right".

"This might be described more as a new departure down the same path than a new path as such," Shields said, pointing out that Macron was "keen to resume his reformist agenda" and that difficult reforms on pensions and health care awaited the new government.

"Time will tell whether it will be enough to bring a new élan to his presidency and boost his own re-election prospects," Shields said.

In the biggest surprise of the reshuffle, star French criminal lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti, famous for his record in winning acquittals for his clients, was named minister of justice.

Controversies

Macron named Castex as prime minister on Friday in place of Edouard Philippe after the governing party performed poorly in regional elections.

The nominations are made on the basis of proposals by the prime minister, but commentators have argued that, by replacing Philippe [with] Castex, Macron decided to become his own PM.

The promotion of Darmanin comes despite allegations from a woman that he raped her in 2009 after she sought his help in having a criminal record expunged. Darmanin has denied the claims and the charges were dismissed in 2018. But earlier this year appeals judges in Paris ordered the reopening of the investigation into the allegations.

Pompili meanwhile faces the task of convincing voters Macron is serious on the environment after the Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV), her former party, emerged as the main winners in the local elections last month.