Weakened Macron struggles to fill Cabinet jobs

Macron (above) has seen his popularity sink to historic lows. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron delayed a hotly awaited Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday (Oct 10) due to difficulties in finding new ministers, in a development many analysts interpreted as a sign of his weakness.

The 40-year-old centrist has endured a torrid few months since a scandal involving a security aide in July, which helped push his popularity ratings down to historic lows.

The damage from the scandal was compounded in September when high-profile environment minister Nicolas Hulot quit and he was followed out of the door by Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on Oct 3.

The departure of Collomb, one of Macron's earliest political backers, was a symbolic blow that has forced the unplanned and unwanted reshuffle.

After seven days of discussions, the presidential office announced on Wednesday that the new team would be announced on Friday night at the earliest, having previously indicated it would unveiled early this week.

"There will be new faces, departures and some people will change jobs inside the government," a government source told AFP on Tuesday.

The line up would only be revealed once Macron returns from a trip to Armenia, said the source.


French media reports say that the ministers in charge of agriculture, culture and territorial cohesion are set to be replaced, but the biggest headache remains finding a political heavyweight for the vital interior minister position.

Christophe Castaner, a former Socialist MP and close Macron confidant, has been widely tipped for the role to replace Collomb, who is returning to his home town of Lyon to serve as mayor.

But Castaner would have to be replaced as the head of the president's party, the Republic on the Move, insiders say.

Several figures are known to have already turned down offers of government posts from Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, underlining the diminished appeal of joining the embattled executive, analysts say.

For veteran political commentator Pascal Perrineau, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris, Macron's difficulties stem from the way he won power at France's elections last year.

The one-time outsider founded his own grassroots movement and swept away France's established parties in a political earthquake for France, bringing in many fresh and inexperienced faces into parliament.

But his party has a shallow talent pool and is no longer attracting the politicians from other parties who once clamoured to join in the wake of the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.

"When you don't have a political organisation that is anchored locally, where you can test people, that serves as a form of education structure, then you find yourself a bit weakened," Perrineau told AFP.

Chloe Morin, a public opinion expert at the Ipsos polling institute, said the problem was that few strong new personalities have emerged in Macron's party or government since his election last year.

"Those who work in the shadow of the president have had difficulties emerging into the light," she told AFP.

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