Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) French President Emmanuel Macron carried off a limited government reshuffle on Monday, keeping the key ministers of his previous term in place, in an apparent acknowledgment of defeat in trying to gather a working majority in the French Assemblée Nationale.
Speaking to his new government on Monday, Macron urged his ministers to “hang in there”, to be ambitious, and to show a willingness to compromise, as his government will now have to seek opposition support for any bill it introduces to the parliament.
Prior to the meeting, he openly acknowledged he had failed in finding a party willing to enter a coalition with his Ensemble! (Together!) group of lawmakers. “We must acknowledge the refusal of established parties to be part of a government agreement,” said Macron.
While Macron sailed through the presidential elections this year, winning a second term at the Élysée Palace, the French voters denied him a majority in the parliament, returning an unprecedented election result that left the sitting president without majority support in the legislature.
While a left-wing opposition bloc, led by the far-left France Unbowed (LFI), also failed to secure a desired majority in the Assemblée Nationale, the group’s 131 seats in the parliament give it the power to initiate confidence votes against the government and individual ministers. The LFI already announced plans to use that power, saying it would table a no-confidence vote against the entire government on Wednesday.
The move is unlikely to succeed – it would require the backing of nearly all opposition parties, featuring diverse groups ranging from far right to far left, and the center-right Republicans (LR), whose program is close to Macron’s, and who have expressed willingness to cooperate with his government on a bill-to-bill basis, despite rejecting a coalition offer outright.
In his new government, Macron kept his Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, and his heavyweight veterans – Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, as well as Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti. Prominent junior Europe Minister Clément Beaune, renowned for fighting with Britain over post-Brexit disputes, was moved to the post of Transport Minister, while his former position was given to Laurence Boone.
Former Healthcare Minister Olivier Véran, who saw France through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, returned as government spokesman, while the most important departure was that of Solidarity Minister Damien Abad, who faced allegations of rape and attempted rape from multiple women in the last weeks. Abad was replaced by French Red Cross head Jean-Cristophe Combe.
Among the first announcements made by Véran on behalf of the new Borne government was that the PM would not seek a vote of confidence after her policy speech later this week – a significant departure from French parliamentary tradition.
Currently operating with a minority government, Macron is sailing the uncharted territory of the French Fifth Republic, which was never faced such a development so far. On rare occasions, a sitting president faced cohabitation with a majority-backed government – the last such case took place in 1997 as Jacques Chirac went to the polls to seek backing for his reform plans and lost the parliamentary elections to the socialist bloc.
France has never in recent history, however, faced a political situation in which there was no clear majority in the parliament, meaning that current developments have no clear precedent and there is no established roadmap for the functioning of the parliament or the government in such a situation.