The Strategist

Macron reshuffles cabinet as ratings hit new low

09/05/2018 - 12:09

A new government has been formed in France on Tuesday afternoon. It is not too different from the old one as only two ministers – of ecology and sport - have been replaced. However, in the current situation, the appointments of François de Rugy and Roxana Maracineanu seem to be good for the image of Edouard Philippe and Emmanuel Macron.

After the Minister of the Environment, Nicolas Hulot, resigned on August 28 on the air of France Inter radio, journalists and politicians argued about who would take his place. The former "green" European MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit was expected to fill the vacant position. However, he declined President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal.

The new Minister of Ecology, 44-year-old François de Rugy who is also the current chairman of the National Assembly, was appointed on Tuesday. The young politician is known for his adherence to the "green" ideas. However, he was not too furious a fighter with the establishment and used to constantly argue with his fellow EELV members (Europe Ecology – The Greens), accusing them of "leftism." Until May 2016, he was co-chair of the environmental group in the National Assembly, and headed the National Assembly after Emmanuel Macron won the presidential and parliamentary elections.

His departure to the government opens a vacancy in the parliament. A new speaker of the National Assembly will be proposed at the next meeting of the parliamentary majority group from La République En Marche! party. Among the contenders are Richard Ferrand, one of the closest associates of President Macron, and Yaël Braun-Pivet, who in July led the failed parliamentary commission to investigate the scandal with presidential aide Alexandre Benalla.

On the other hand, nobody expected replacement of the minister of sports. Her resignation took place on the eve of announcement of the new government cabinet. 46-year-old Laura Flessel, former épée fencer and Olympic champion, announced that she was leaving the ministerial post "for personal reasons". Unlike Mr. Hulot, she warned Prime Minister Édouard Philippe of her intention in advance.

According to Canard enchaine, the former official was threatened with accusations of tax fraud, which the current government does not need at all.

Flessel was replaced by 43-year-old Roxana Maracineanu, ex-world champion in swimming. She became a French citizen only in 1991. Her family fled from Romania in the early 1980s. At eight she was in a refugee camp. She had to study at a French school and show the best results in sports, because this could help with obtaining documents. The story of Mrs. Maracineanu is a classic leftist fairy tale: a former immigrant, who took one of the highest offices in French administration.

The Ministry of Culture will continue to be headed by the 67-year-old Françoise Nyssen, former editor and owner of the independent publishing house Actes Sude. However, recently French media reported that the publishing house’s office was reconstructed without official permission, and so there was a certain conflict of interest. However, the mini-scandal seems to be neutralized now - Françoise Nyssen expressed willingness to re-construct the building back if the controlling bodies do not approve the overhaul.

The announcement of the new government cabinet coincided with results of the next public opinion poll conducted by the Ifop Institute and commissioned by the weekly Paris Match.

According to the survey, the rating of confidence in Emmanuel Macron dropped to 31%. This figure is even less than rating of highly unpopular Francois Hollande, who gained 32% five years ago.

In the face of the falling rating, President Macron needs to demonstrate that the government does not collapse to the right, as his opponents from the left opposition camp accuse. At that, he has to keep the balance to not give arguments to opponents on the right. New appointments to the government in this sense look like a good, balanced move, capable to calm down public opinion.


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