PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday named Mr Jean Castex, a top civil servant and local mayor in charge of the country’s coronavirus lockdown exit strategy, as his new prime minister as he acted to reinvent his administration and win back voters.
Mr Castex, 55, hails from the centre-right of French politics and served for two years as the second-highest ranking official in the Elysee Palace during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.
An Elysee official described Mr Castex as a senior civil servant whose experience in local politics would help Mr Macron connect with provincial France. Mr Castex was a “social Gaullist”, the official said, referring to the more interventionist, socially minded wing of France’s centre-right.
The announcement followed the resignation of Mr Edouard Philippe as prime minister ahead of Mr Macron’s widely anticipated overhaul of the government.
Mr Macron is reshaping his government as France grapples with the deepest economic depression since World War II, a sharp downturn that will shrink the economy by about 11 per cent this year and reverse hard-fought gains on unemployment.
Investors will be watching to see if Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who has overseen reforms to liberalise the economy and spent big to keep companies like Air France and Renault afloat during the crisis, keeps his job.
“The return from summer holidays will be difficult, we must get ready,” Mr Macron told regional newspapers.
The President and Mr Philippe dined together on Wednesday and met on Thursday. The Elysee source described Thursday’s discussions as warm and friendly. Both men agreed on “the need for a new government to embody the next phase, a new path”, the aide said.
Mr Macron said last month that he wanted to start afresh as France embarks on a delicate and costly recovery from its coronavirus slump.
Then came his party’s dire showing in nationwide municipal elections on Sunday. The local elections revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Mr Macron’s troubles connecting with ordinary people.