President Emmanuel Macron is testing French patience. More than a week has gone by since the resignation of his interior minister, with no sign of a new cabinet team being appointed. The anticipated reshuffle will not now take place until after the president returns on Friday from a planned trip to Armenia, Macron’s office said, reports Bloomberg.
“The President of the Republic wants to take the necessary time, with calm, professionalism and respect, to compose a coherent and quality team to serve the French,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement on Wednesday morning. The president is also taking time to carry out background checks on all prospective candidates," it said.
With a virtual news blackout in place, the past week since Macron’s team sent a cryptic note on the secured messaging service Telegram about the departure of his most senior minister has been filled by speculation, innuendo and misinformation.
Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe spent almost two hours deliberating Tuesday morning, after which a statement was issued saying that the reshuffle “will be done without PM Philippe and his government’s resignation”. That suggests a change of faces rather than a root-and-branch overhaul.
“How long will this masquerade go on?” the opposition Les Republicain party’s parliamentary whip, Christian Jacob, demanded of the premier. “The tragic-comedy has been going on for a week now.”
With reporters camped out at the Elysée Palace on Tuesday, Macron met with farmers, the Uzbek president, and with the CEOs of 25 French tech firms before delivering an evening speech in Paris on his vow to “scale up the start-up nation.” It was left to the prime minister to defend the government during the weekly parliament session.
“I can assure you there is no weakness in this government, no impatience,” Philippe told lawmakers. “We are not backing down on any of the commitments taken by the president.”
At stake is Macron’s ability to move beyond months of gaffes and political setbacks that culminated October 2nd, when the Elysée said that interior minister Gerard Collomb had “put himself in a position to have to resign.” Later that night, Collomb, one of Macron’s earliest and most senior political backers, finally terminated his mandate.
While the president could simply replace him, that may not be enough for Macron to jump start his presidency and revive his flagging poll ratings.
French media have reported that the cabinet reshuffle could involve five to ten ministers or junior ministers being replaced or seeing their functions rejigged, with those responsible for culture, agriculture and territorial cohesion the most likely to be replaced.