Macron to shuffle government ahead of French parliamentary polls

The 44-year-old head of state, re-elected in late April, named former labour minister Elizabeth Borne as prime minister on Monday, making her the first woman to fill the role in more than 30 years.

FILE: French President and La Republique en Marche (LREM) party candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech after his victory in France's presidential election, at the Champ de Mars in Paris, on 24 April 2022. Picture: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

PARIS - French President Emmanuel Macron is to reshuffle his government on Friday ahead of parliamentary elections next month, which could include changes at the heavyweight foreign and defence ministries.

The 44-year-old head of state, re-elected in late April, named former labour minister Elizabeth Borne as prime minister on Monday, making her the first woman to fill the role in more than 30 years.

Several days of media speculation about the composition of the wider cabinet will end later Friday when the rest of the government is announced.

"Obviously we're not dragging our feet. I can assure you that we are working on it very closely," Borne said on Thursday when asked about the delay in the naming her ministers.

The presidency confirmed on Friday morning that an announcement would be made later in the day by Macron's chief of staff.

Defence Minister Florence Parly is widely rumoured to be on her way out despite the war in Ukraine, with the future of veteran Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said to be in the balance.

Such changes in the middle of the biggest war in Europe in generations would raise eyebrows, though Macron has taken the lead on France's response the crisis.

The centrist needs a parliamentary majority in elections next month to push through his domestic reform agenda which includes welfare and pension overhauls, as well as more tax cuts.

DELAYS

Opposition figures have accused him of deliberately delaying naming a new government, almost four weeks since his re-election on April 24, when he defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The issue has been the subject of feverish media coverage in recent days, overshadowing the parliamentary campaign and drowning out opposition parties.

"French people have a lot of worries about the future, about the cost of electricity, the cost of fuel, of housing and of food which is going up," right-wing MP Julien Aubert from the Republicans party told Franceinfo radio on Friday.

Macron's centrist LREM party, which has joined forces with several other centrist and centre-right groups, is expected to face its biggest challenge from a rejuvenated left next month.

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is eyeing a comeback in the elections on June 12 and 19.

Melenchon recently persuaded the Socialist, Communist and Greens parties to enter an alliance under his leadership that unites the left around a common platform for the first time in decades.

NEW FACES

As with previous Macron governments, the cabinet is expected to be evenly split between men and women.

The president has also made a habit of attracting talent from rival parties, with this government tipped to feature Damien Abad, who was the head of the Republicans party in parliament.

Abad, 42, is the son of a miner from Nimes in southern France and became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012.

He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints, and has spoken openly about the need for handicapped people to be represented in politics.

Elsewhere in the government, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and hardline Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin are both expected to be remain in their positions.