On Friday morning Edouard Philippe presented his resignation and that of his government, which was accepted by the president, the Elysée Palace said on Friday.
No reason was given in the short statement, but a cabinet reshuffle had been widely expected after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to chart a new course for the last two years of his term. Philippe’s popularity amongst the French public that had been rising in recent weeks in the contrast to that of Macron.
A recent poll has suggested around 57 percent of the French wanted Philippe to stay on as PM.
On Sunday he won the re-election to his mayoral seat in the northern port town of Le Havre. Additionally, Macron told the regional press on Thursday that la rentrée, meaning the return to work in September that after the summer holidays “will be extremely difficult”.
“We need to be prepared,” Macron said.
Macron told that his relationship with Philippe was “historic” and also that the PM had done a “remarkable job” as the leader of the government as well.
In theory,Edouard Philippe could name a stand-in for the mayor’s post so he can remain, the prime minister, although Macron may prefer to burnish his social justice credentials with a more centrist or leftwing pick.
Macron said there would a “new team” that would lead the “reconstruction” of the country, but did not say who would be part of it.
Macron’s Republic on the Move (i.e. LREM) party failed to notch up any significant victory in the second round of Sunday’s municipal elections that had been postponed for over around three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Macron has promised that the second part of his presidency would take note of failings during the first.
‘A clear signal’
“Right now there’s a paradox: the French like their prime minister a lot, but they don’t like the government’s policies,” he said.
Jeremy Ghez, an associate professor at the Paris business school HEC told The Local: “Changing the government is the best way historically to show that you want to change political course.”
For the next and final phase of his government, Macron would need to redirect its focus towards incorporating more green policies, Ghez said, pointing to the green surge in the local elections as “a clear signal” from the French.
“Macron has shown that he is capable of reinventing himself, but the problem is that, more often than not, the result is politics as usual,” Ghez said.
‘Macron thinks the same as me’
The president appointed Edouard Philippe has his PM shortly after winning the presidential election in May 2017. Philippe came from the progressive wing of the center-right Republicans party and his appointment was seen as a crucial factor in helping Macron win support from the center-right that helped propel his new La Republique en Marche (LREM) party towards a huge majority in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Philippe was an unknown face in 2017 but was highly thought of among a section of the right, notably former presidential favorite and one-time PM Alain Juppé.
He and Macron have similar backgrounds. They both studied at Sciences-Po university as well as at the Ecole National d’Administration (ENA), the prestigious grande école where many of France’s future leaders are trained.
The two first met at a dinner in 2011.
In 2016 Edouard Philippe told journalists that “Macron thinks 90 percent the same way as me”.
“I like him because he is a nice and intelligent person,” said Philippe at the time.