French government resigns as Emmanuel Macron acts to recast presidency

The Elysee Palace said French PM Edouard Philippe would handle government affairs until a new Cabinet was named. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS) - French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his government resigned on Friday (July 3) as President Emmanuel Macron acted on a pledge to reinvent his administration and win back disillusioned voters ahead of a possible re-election bid in 2022.

Mr Macron's office said a new prime minister would be named in the next few hours. A source familiar with Mr Macron's thinking said the president would not be reappointing the prime minister, as can sometimes happen in French government reshuffles.

Questions over Mr Philippe's job have swirled since mid-June when Mr Macron, whose term has less than two years to run, declared he wanted to recast his presidency as France seeks to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

"Edouard Philippe today handed in the resignation of his government to the president of the Republic, who accepted it," the Elysee said in a statement.

Mr Philippe and his ministers will handle government affairs until a new Cabinet is named, the statement added.

Mr Macron's move to refashion his centrist government comes after voters punished the former investment banker and his party in nationwide municipal elections on June 28.

The elections revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Mr Macron's troubles with left-leaning voters.

The only bright spot for Mr Macron was Mr Philippe's own victory in the northern port city of Le Havre.

With only 21 months until the next presidential election, Mr Macron wants to reposition himself, close advisers say.

He is taking a gamble by replacing Mr Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the president, political analysts say.

The prime minister showed steadfast loyalty during waves of unrest and could emerge as a presidential rival in 2022.

But keeping Mr Philippe in office would have been problematic too.

It could have suggested that Mr Macron was too weak to let go of his prime minister and that his young party lacked the depth to allow for a full Cabinet overhaul.

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