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.