Macron Draws Up French Cabinet With Help From New Premier

  • Cabinet members due to be announced Wednesday afternoon
  • President seeks political balance ahead of parliament election

Macron, Merkel Begin Their Path to EU Revival

President Emmanuel Macron is spending Tuesday selecting his cabinet with new Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Just back from meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Macron is huddling with Philippe throughout the day with the list of ministers is due to be released at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Paris.

Edouard Philippe on May 16.

Photographer: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

Macron this month became the first French president to be elected without the support of either of the country’s major political parties after promising to overcome the ideological divisions that have long hampered policy making. As such, he has a delicate balancing act to pull off as he seeks a mix of men and women, political backgrounds, and technical experience.

“He always said his government will have gender parity with people from various political backgrounds and from civil society,” Richard Ferrand, Macron’s campaign chief, said on France Inter radio Tuesday. “Getting over divisions means everyone can have their own political background, but still work for the common good.”

Philippe, who was appointed Monday, is the mayor of the port city of Le Havre and also a member of parliament from the center-right Republicans party. Macron was a minister in the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Potential Ministers

The announcement of the new government had been expected Tuesday evening, but a statement from Macron’s office said the announcement will come Wednesday and blamed the delay on the need to verify the candidates. The first cabinet meeting has been pushed back to Thursday from Wednesday.

French press reports suggest the only member of Hollande’s cabinet likely to keep his job is Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who backed Macron over the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate Benoit Hamon. Other names that have been mentioned as possible members of the cabinet are centrist politician Francois Bayrou, who pulled out of the presidential race to rally his support behind Macron, Lyon Mayor Gerard Collomb, European lawmaker Sylvie Goulard, former trade minister Anne-Marie Idrac, and Ferrand.

French newspapers have reported that Bayrou and Philippe both insisted on naming a certain number of ministers. Ferrand refused to be pinned down on exactly when the cabinet would be named. “We can’t tie our program to the schedule of when newspapers go to press,” he said.

On Monday evening in Berlin, the president said he doesn’t want to pool existing euro-area government debt and pledged to implement economic reform in France as he sought to revive the French-German partnership during his first overseas trip on his first full day in office. He’ll meet Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni Wednesday evening in Paris.

How long that cabinet lasts, and whether it’s able to enact the economic modernization Macron promised in his campaign, will depend on parliamentary elections to be held June 11 and June 18. Macron needs to be able to pull together a majority in parliament -- either with his own party, the Republic on the Move, or with partners. If he falls short, the new parliament could vote down Macron’s cabinet and choose its own government, sidelining the president.

Macron’s political movement has named 511 candidates for the 577-seat parliament and plans to name the rest this week.

Having already split the Socialist Party with his run for the presidency, Macron’s recruitment of one of the rising stars from the Republicans now threatens to splinter that party as well. A group of 28 lawmakers from centrist parties and Philippe’s Republicans Monday evening signed a letter calling on their parties “to respond to the open hand” of Macron.

Republicans Divided

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a moderate Republicans lawmaker who signed the letter, called for her party to work with Macron.

“I prefer the prime minister to come from my political family and not from the left,” she said Tuesday on France Inter. “It would be an error to act as if this hasn’t happened.”

But Francois Baroin, who is running the Republicans parliamentary campaign, said his party won’t cut any deals with Macron.

“He doesn’t want parties to realign, he wants to dynamite them,” Baroin said on BFM TV. “We have serious differences: He wants to raise taxes, we want to cut income tax.’

(Updates with comments from Kosciusko-Morizet in 13th paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the timing of the announcement in the first deckhead.)
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