France: Jean Castex named new prime minister as Emmanuel Macron seeks to win back voters

France’s new prime minister has been named as Jean Castex following the resignation of Edouard Philippe, triggering a government reshuffle.

Speculation had been growing that a shake-up at the Elysee Palace was imminent – with French President Emmanuel Macron seeking to boost his green credentials and win back disillusioned voters.

Mr Philippe had actually seen his popularity increase significantly in recent weeks – despite French authorities facing criticism over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Nonetheless, rumours over his future had swirled since mid-June, when Mr Macron declared he wanted to “reinvent” his presidency.

In French government reshuffles, the prime minister tenders his or her resignation ahead of cabinet appointments, but can still be renamed to the position.

However, the Elysee Palace has announced the relatively low-profile Mr Castex, who coordinated France‘s COVID-19 reopening strategy, as the new officer-holder.

It will be a big political gamble for Mr Macron to replace Mr Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the
president.

His resignation could create a potential rival for Mr Macron, who is seeking to be re-elected in 2022.

Mr Macron has paid tribute to Mr Phillippe’s “outstanding work” in the past three years.

The president is seeking to open a new chapter for the two remaining years of his term that will focus on efforts to relaunch the French economy deeply hit by COVID-19.

In local elections on Sunday, Mr Macron’s young centrist party faced defeat in France’s biggest cities as a green wave swept over the country.

In an interview given to several local newspapers on Thursday, Mr Macron, said he was seeking a “new path” to rebuild the country during the rest of his term.

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