Un­der-fire Macron de­lays cab­i­net reshuf­fle

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD - (Reuters)

FRENCH Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron post­poned a planned gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle yes­ter­day, prompt­ing new ques­tions about the depth of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in his party and his own abil­ity to keep his ad­min­is­tra­tion on track af­ter sev­eral res­ig­na­tions.

The pres­i­dent and his prime min­is­ter have been weigh­ing the reshuf­fle for a week fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of three min­is­ters since late Au­gust, res­ig­na­tions that have chal­lenged Macron’s au­thor­ity and stalled his re­form am­bi­tions.

The 40-year-old faces mul­ti­ple chal­lenges in car­ry­ing out a sig­nif­i­cant re­vamp. Not only must he try to main­tain the left-right bal­ance that he made a hall­mark of his cen­trist move­ment, but he must find strong can­di­dates from among a rel­a­tively shal­low and in­ex­pe­ri­enced pool of loy­al­ists.

“The pres­i­dent wishes to take the time nec­es­sary to draw up a team in a calm and pro­fes­sional way,” the El­y­see Palace said.

Min­is­ters had ex­pected the re­jig be­fore a cab­i­net meet­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing. But the El­y­see said it would not hap­pen un­til af­ter Macron re­turns from Ar­me­nia late on Fri­day.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bruno Le Maire can­celed trav­el­ing to Bali for an In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund gath­er­ing to at­tend the cab­i­net ses­sion.

Macron’s pop­u­lar­ity has sunk in re­cent months, fall­ing to be­low 30 per­cent, as vot­ers ex­press frus­tra­tion with a leader they of­ten re­gard as ar­ro­gant and sup­port­ive of poli­cies that ben­e­fit the wealthy. Im­pa­tience has also grown with the slug­gish pace of eco­nomic growth and job creation.

Op­po­nents branded the reshuf­fle a “tragic-com­edy” that ex­posed a short­age of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in the rul­ing party.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe told bay­ing op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers there was “no anx­i­ety, no rest­less­ness” in­side an ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mit­ted to so­cial and eco­nomic re­form. Tough pol­icy re­form to pen­sions and unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits loom.

A se­nior El­y­see of­fi­cial dis­missed re­ports of a rift between Macron and Philippe.

It was be­cause Macron had re­shaped the po­lit­i­cal land­scape and brought in faces from out­side pol­i­tics that the process took longer, the of­fi­cial said.

“We’re no longer in an age where be­cause some­one has 15 years of ser­vice un­der their belt they de­serve to be­come a min­is­ter,” the of­fi­cial said.

Macron’s ri­vals were not con­vinced.

“Macron’s abil­ity to at­tract is pretty weak,” hard left law­maker Alexis Cor­biere said. “Many are ask­ing them­selves: ‘What should we do in this mess?’ They don’t want to be fin­ished po­lit­i­cally by be­com­ing a min­is­ter in a gov­ern­ment that risks de­scend­ing into cri­sis in less than a year.”

In win­ning power in 2017, Macron and his En Marche move­ment de­mol­ished France’s main­stream par­ties.

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