Jean Castex appointed as new French PM

French government "deconfinement" coordinator Jean Castex leaves after a videoconference with the French President and French mayors at the Elysee Palace in Paris after the country began a gradual end to the nationwide lockdown following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, 19 May 2020. [EPA-EFE/GONZALO FUENTES / POOL]

Jean Castex became the new Prime Minister of France on Friday (3 July), following the announcement of a government reshuffle on Tuesday evening and the resignation of Edouard Philippe this morning.

Largely unknown to the public, the 55 year-old technocrat was in charge of President  Emmanuel Macron’s strategy to ease France out of its Covid-19 lockdown.

Previously, Castex was Xavier Bertrand’s chief of staff at the Ministry of Health and then at the Ministry of Labour under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency between 2006 and 2008. He is also a local politician as the mayor of Prades, a town of 6,124 inhabitants, and member of the departmental council for the Pyrénées-Orientales since 2008 and 2015.

The handover of power ceremony will take place this afternoon, and the new Prime Minister will propose a new government in the coming days.

The nomination of the little-known Castex has already been criticised by the opposition on Twitter. Politicians from the right and left of the political spectrum have complained that the ‘technocratic choice’ is the latest sign of micro-management by President Macron, with some accusing Macron of “wanting to govern by himself”.

Replacing Philippe is undoubtedly a bold move by Macron, considering that the outgoing Prime Minister has enjoyed higher personal popularity ratings in recent months. That could see him emerge as a potential rival to Macron ahead of the next presidential elections in 2022.

As for Edouard Philippe, he is returning to Le Havre after his re-election in municipal elections which saw Macron’s La Republique en Marche party suffer heavy defeats in most French cities.

Macron, who has paid tribute to Philippe’s “outstanding work”, told French media that he wants to forge a “new path” for the country in the last two years of his first term as President.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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