French Prime Minister Resigns Before a Cabinet Reshuffle


PARIS — France’s prime minister, Édouard Philippe, resigned on Friday, the first step in a major government reshuffle, according to the office of the French president.

President Emmanuel Macron had widely been expected to extensively reshape his cabinet in a bid to begin a new phase after the coronavirus pandemic devastated the nation, in the hopes of giving his government a fresh mandate in the last stretch of his five-year term in office, which ends in 2022.

There had been some speculation that Mr. Philippe, whose popularity has grown in recent weeks, would be reappointed, but political insiders tamped down that idea on Friday. A new prime minister is expected to be nominated later in the day, the office of the president said, although it was not clear when the new cabinet as a whole will be named.

France is still dealing with the aftermath of an initial coronavirus outbreak, as one of the European countries hit hardest by the pandemic, with nearly 30,000 reported deaths.

The reshuffle was all the more expected after a strong showing by Green parties in France’s municipal elections last week, adding pressure on Mr. Macron to change his governing team.

Unlike many of its European neighbors, France has a system of government in which the president, elected directly by the French people, is the head of the executive and is usually the main policy driver. The prime minister and cabinet are accountable to Parliament, but are appointed by the president and responsible for day-to-day governing.

In an interview on Thursday with France’s regional press, Mr. Macron praised Mr. Philippe for helping him carry out “important historic reforms in circumstances that were often very hard” and said they had a special “relationship of trust.”

“I will have choices to make to lead the new way,” Mr. Macron said of the cabinet reshuffle. He said that “there will be a new team,” but did not specify whether it would include Mr. Philippe.

While it is possible for Mr. Philippe to be reappointed to the same post, that seemed increasingly unlikely on Friday as workers began arriving with moving boxes at the Hôtel de Matignon, the prime minster’s residence and office in central Paris.

Mr. Philippe, a right-wing politician whose calm, pragmatic manner has been praised by the French during the pandemic, has climbed in opinion polls over the past weeks. One poll found that nearly 60 percent of respondents wanted Mr. Philippe to stay on as prime minister, although most also wanted to see a shift in policy from Mr. Macron.

Mr. Philippe was a relatively unknown mayor of Le Havre, a port town in northern France, when Mr. Macron appointed him prime minister in 2017.



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