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France get new Prime Minister

French President Emmanuel Macron has named a new prime minister ahead of a major cabinet reshuffle.

Jean Castex was appointed to the job Friday, after former prime minister Edouard Philippe handed in his resignation earlier in the day. 

Castex, a center-right politician like Philippe, had already been involved with the government after he was enlisted in April to help with its de-confinement plans. 

In a statement Friday, Macron’s office said Philippe had handed in the resignation of the government, but that the current cabinet would remain in charge of governmental affairs until a new team was put in place. 

In France, the president — the main political figure — selects the prime minister, who then forms the government. As such, the resignation paves the way for a cabinet reshuffle.

It comes after speculation that Macron was preparing a reshuffle to focus on the economic recovery post-coronavirus. Macron needed to decide whether or not Philippe should go, given that the prime minister had become more popular among the electorate in the aftermath of the pandemic than the president himself.

Macron will face a new presidential election in 2022 and the remainder of his mandate is likely to be heavily impacted by the ongoing health and economic crises.

Speaking earlier this month, Macron said: “With this epidemic, the global economy has come to a virtual standstill. Our first priority will be to rebuild an economy that is strong, ecological, sovereign and united.”

‘Limited’ policy maneuver 

“The room for policy manouver is limited,” Tomasz Michalski, associate professor at the H.E.C. Business school in Paris, said via email.

“The economic measures introduced during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. worker furloughing schemes) adjourned the economic problems that are going to be felt strongly in the Fall with massive layoffs that are being prepared, bankruptcies and an ever more indebted French state.”

The French central bank said in June that it expects the country’s economy to contract by 10.3% this year, before returning to growth in 2021 and 2022.

“President Macron may need to extend social security programs even further to avoid mass protests. He might also need to raise taxes. In this context, as a counterpart, he wishes to complete the pension reform started over a year ago: to be able to claim that he fulfilled some of his campaign promises and repaired the French state for many years to come,” Michalski added.

Macron was elected in 2017 on a pro-European platform and reformist agenda, promising to make France’s labor market less rigid. He created his own centrist party, La Republique En Marche!, as an alternative to the conservative Les Republicains and left-wing Socialist Party — the two mainstream groups that had dominated French politics until then.

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