French President Emmanuel Macron has named Jean Castex as the country’s new prime minister, following the resignation of Edouard Philippe. A full government reshuffle is expected later.
Castex is a local mayor from the Pyrenees, and has been overseeing the exit from France’s coronavirus lockdown. Until now a member of the right-wing “Les Républicains” party, he worked for former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s team at the Elysée.
Macron had been expected to change the faces and direction of his government, especially in the wake of defeat in last weekend’s local elections. In a major speech earlier this week, he said the “time has come to act” on the environment.
The appointment of Castex immediately brought angry criticism from the French left, who fear that little will change under another politician from the political right.
Edouard Philippe handed in his and his government’s resignation to President Emmanuel Macron on Friday morning, and it was accepted, the Elysée announced earlier. A short news release said Philippe would continue to deal with everyday matters until the new government was appointed.
HIs departure is seen as amicable: indeed he has reportedly been offered a role coordinating Macron’s “La République en Marche” (LREM) movement ahead of the next presidential election in 2022.
The outgoing prime minister had been in the post since 2017, when Macron came to power. Philippe was elected last Sunday as mayor of Le Havre, a post he had previously occupied for several years.
His successor faces a huge challenge as France, like other countries, battles the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic fallout.
Who is Jean Castex and what’s been the reaction to his appointment?
France’s new prime minister is 55 years old and has been mayor of Prades, a town in the eastern Pyrenees, since 2008. For several years he was also a regional councillor in the southwestern Languedoc-Roussillon region.
His political experience at national level includes posts in the health and employment ministries in the 2000s, followed by a spell as an advisor and then senior official at the Elysée under President Sarkozy from 2010 to 2012.
Described as discreet and efficient, he has held a senior post involved in preparing for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.
France’s conservative “Les Républicains” (LR) party immediately distanced themselves from Castex following his appointment as prime minister. The LR president Christian Jacob described it as “technocratic”, adding that Castex was no longer with the right-wing party.
The Socialist Party leader, Olivier Faure, said on Twitter the appointment by President Macron was no surprise. “The day after will be to the right, like the day before,” he commented.