French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed Jean Castex, a low-profile 55-year-old conservative politician, as new Prime Minister, the Elysee Palace said on Friday in a statement.
Castex, who is the mayor of the small town of Prades in southern France, had previously been given the delicate task of handling the government’s plan for exiting the coronavirus lockdown.
Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigned ahead of a government reshuffle by President Emmanuel Macron designed to bolster his green credentials and win back disillusioned voters ahead of a possible re-election bid.
It was not immediately clear whether Philippe would be called upon to form the new government.
Macron’s move to refashion his centrist government comes after voters punished the former investment banker and his party in nationwide municipal elections.
The elections revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Macron’s troubles with left-leaning voters.
The only bright spot for Macron was Philippe’s own victory in the northern port city of Le Havre.
Close advisers say with only 21 months until the next presidential election, Macron wants to reposition himself.
Political analysts say it will be a political gamble for Macron to replace Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the president.
The prime minister has shown steadfast loyalty during waves of unrest and could emerge as a presidential rival in 2022.
However, keeping Philippe in office could be problematic too.
It could suggest that Macron was too weak to let go of his prime minister and that his young party lacked the depth to allow for a full-blooded cabinet overhaul.
Moreover, Macron poached Philippe from the centre-right opposition and holding onto him would complicate winning back leftist voters. (Reuters/NAN)