French PM Edouard Philippe tenders resignation ahead of reshuffle

Edouard Phillipe
French President Emmanuel Macron and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe arrive for a meeting with members of the Citizens’ Convention on Climate (CCC) to discuss over environment proposals at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigned on Friday 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.

The Elysee Palace said in a statement that Philippe would handle government affairs until a new cabinet was named.

Questions over Philippe’s job have swirled since mid-June when 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 re-named to the position. 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.

With only 21 months until the next presidential election, Macron wants to reposition himself, close advisers say.

It would be a political gamble for Macron to replace Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the president, political analysts say. The prime minister has shown steadfast loyalty during waves of unrest and could emerge as a presidential rival in 2022.

But 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.

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