French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his entire government resigned on Friday amid questions about the country’s coronavirus response and the collapse of Macron’s party in local elections.
President Emmanuel Macron is taking advantage of the opportunity to overhaul his cabinet and has already appointed conservative Jean Castex, who has been leading the country’s coronavirus response, to succeed Philippe as prime minister. Castex has been dubbed “Mr. Deconfinement” for his efforts to reopen the devastated French economy after coronavirus shutdowns.
Macron said he wanted to chart a “new path” for his government after the election defeats and resignations.
“I will need to make choices to lead [France] down that path,” Macron said while praising Philippe’s “outstanding work” as prime minister.
Philippe’s popularity in recent weeks has reportedly eclipsed Macron’s, and it is rumored he may want to run for president against Macron in the next election.
Macron is expected to appoint replacements in the other cabinet positions by Wednesday.
Almost immediately, the Law Court of the Republic announced investigations into Philippe and at least eight other officials, including Health Minister Olivier Veran and former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn, after an unusually high number of complaints by French citizens regarding the coronavirus response.
Many of the over 90 complaints against the French government concerned shortages of masks and other equipment needed to fight the virus.
If the officials are found guilty of “failing to fight a disaster,” they could serve up to two years in prison.
France looking to rebuild economy
France has had 168,000 cases of the coronavirus and 29,920 deaths, but is not seeing many new cases after reopening beginning in April.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, France’s economy was one of the strongest in Europe with falling unemployment and strong foreign investment as Macron worked on deregulation.
Macron and the public are hopeful that the reshuffling will help consolidate power and lead the country back to a place of growth.