PARIS (Reuters) - French Justice Minister and Modem party head Francois Bayrou is leaving the government, a source in the prime minister's office said on Wednesday (June 21), further complicating a ministerial reshuffle planned by President Emmanuel Macron.
Centre-right Modem, a key ally of Macron's Republic On the Move (LREM) party in presidential and parliamentary elections, is the target of an investigation opened by prosecutors earlier this month into alleged fake European Parliament assistant jobs.
On Tuesday, Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard, also a Modem member, quit, saying she did not want to stay because of the investigation.
On Wednesday, the source told Reuters that Bayrou was also quitting and would not be part of the next Cabinet that Macron is due to announce later in the day.
Junior European affairs minister Marielle de Sarnez is also leaving government, sources told Reuters.
Conservative party The Republicans had on Tuesday (June 20) called for Bayrou and de Sarnez to quit over the investigation into Modem.
On Monday (June 19), the government announced that Richard Ferrand, a minister for territorial planning and key member of LREM, was leaving to chair the party's group in Parliament. He is the target of a separate judicial probe.
The flurry of departures mean that the reshuffle, initially expected to be a formality after a convincing parliamentary election win on Sunday (June 18) for Macron's centrist LREM party, will be more far-reaching than expected.
LREM's solid majority means Macron does not need Modem's votes to get legislation through Parliament, but he may now have to replace Modem with politicians from the Republicans in his Cabinet, which could give ammunition to leftist opponents who call him a right-winger in disguise.
Being a target of a preliminary investigation in France is not an indication of guilt. Prosecutors can decide to either drop the probe or proceed to a full-fledged investigation.