July 3, 2020 - 16:23 AMT
Macron taps Jean Castex to be France’s new PM

French President Emmanuel Macron tapped Jean Castex to be his new Prime Minister as he seeks to inject momentum into his presidency after a disastrous showing in June municipal elections, Bloomberg reports.

The 55-year-old is a fresh face in the French political scene -- so his appointment to replace Edouard Philippe, a popular figure among voters, is telling. Macron has picked a largely unknown bureaucrat and removed a potential rival who had overshadowed him and could have a half eye on the 2022 presidential elections.

Castex is associated with the conservative Republican party, as opposed to Macron’s centrist leanings, and he coordinated France’s reopening after the pandemic forced a lockdown.

This is the first announcement of what promises to be a major reshuffle of Macron’s cabinet and comes as the French president is trying to reinvent himself in time for re-election.

He underestimated the impact of the Yellow Vests, which morphed from a grassroots movement opposed to higher fuel taxes into a nationwide phenomenon that at its peak turned violent. The protesters never went away, the list of grievances instead just grew longer.

They now join unions in opposing an overhaul to a generous pension system made all the more unaffordable by an economy in recession. There is unhappiness with his uneven handling of a pandemic that has caused nearly 30,000 French deaths. His Republic on the Move party was broadly rejected in a June 28 municipal ballot that saw the Green Party gain strongholds throughout the country.

Since early June, Castex, who’s also the mayor of Prades, a small town in Southern France famous for its cello festival, is back at handling preparations for the 2024 Olympic Games, overseeing a complex coordination with the Paris and national authorities as well as public transportation companies and private sponsors.