May 16, 2017
PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is building a new government he hopes will have more gender balance, fewer positions and be less subject to scandal as it carries out his plans to overhaul the country’s labor laws and politics.
The government will be formally presented on Wednesday. Macron’s office delayed the announcement, initially expected Tuesday, while authorities check the tax records and backgrounds of ministerial candidates for potential conflicts of interest.
Macron won the May 7 presidential runoff in part on promises to clean up the corruption and stagnation ascribed to traditional parties. He said he would require his ministers to sign a commitment to “integrity and morality.”
The 5-year term of his immediate predecessor, Socialist President Francois Hollande, was tarnished early on by financial scandals. The new government is expected to have an equal number of women and men and a smaller number of Cabinet posts than under Hollande.
It’s a delicate balancing act, as the centrist Macron tries to redesign French politics by borrowing ministers from left and right, and combining new talent with experienced heavyweights who can help him make his mark on Europe and world affairs.
The president named low-profile, center-right Edouard Philippe as prime minister on Monday. Others whose names are circulating are television personality and environmental activist Nicolas Hulot; Axelle Tessandier, who created a startup in San Francisco before joining Macron’s campaign; center-right European lawmaker Sylvie Goulard; and prominent centrist party leader Francois Bayrou.
Outgoing Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, a Socialist, may end up remaining in his post to ensure continuity in French military operations against Islamic extremists in Syria, Iraq and Africa. The biggest scandal to taint Hollande’s administration concerned then-budget minister Jerome Cahuzac. After months of public denials and lies, Cahuzac acknowledged in 2013 holding illegal foreign bank accounts for two decades.
Cahuzac’s case prompted the appointment of a new national financial prosecutor to focus on complex cases of serious economic and financial crime and the enactment of a law requiring ministers and lawmakers to declare their financial assets.
In his second full day in office, Macron also hosted a delegation from the International Olympic Committee in the Elysee Palace, a symbolically important gesture of support for the French capital’s bid in its heated race against Los Angeles for the 2024 Games.
Macron pushed the Paris Olympic bid with a visiting IOC delegation. Macron said he would go to Lausanne, Switzerland, for a key IOC meeting in July and he may go to Lima, Peru, in September, where the committee makes its final decision.
“This discussion left no doubt about the fact that the Paris bid is enjoying extremely strong support from all public authorities,” Patrick Baumann, head of the IOC evaluation commission told reporters after the meeting.
Winning the games would be a big boost for France after years of fading global influence — and a boost for Macron as the untested 39-year-old president embarks on an effort to reinvigorate the French economy amid skepticism.
Meanwhile, criticism from Socialists and conservative Republicans met Macron’s nomination of Philippe as prime minister. The traditional parties fear being sidelined by Macron’s growing centrist party, Republic on the Move, in crucial parliamentary elections next month.
Macron “wants to create a majority by exploding the right as he exploded the left,” senior Republicans lawmaker Bernard Accoyer told France-2 TV station Tuesday. The new government may only serve for a few weeks. If Macron’s party doesn’t win a majority in the June 11 and 18 elections, he might have to form a coalition and adjust the makeup of the government. He also could end up with a government led by an opposition party.
Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.