Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Macron chooses center-right city mayor as PM

AFP, PARIS

New French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday named Edouard Philippe, a little-known center-right mayor, as prime minister, in his first major decision since taking power on a promise to lead a French “renaissance.”

Philippe, a 46-year-old lawmaker and mayor of the northern port of Le Havre, comes from the moderate wing of the rightwing Republicans party and is seen as a pragmatist.

His appointment was seen as a strategic move by 39-year-old Macron, a former economics minister in former president Francois Hollande’s Socialist government who is trying to woo modernizers of all stripes to his new centrist party, La Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move).

France’s youngest ever president has already attracted dozens of Socialist lawmakers to his side, triggering a major realignment in French politics that has left the traditional parties floundering.

Like Macron, Philippe is a product of France’s elite Ecole Nationale de Administration college for senior public servants and worked for a while in the private sector.

Relatively unknown outside his Le Havre fiefdom, he has already crossed the floor once in his career, defecting from the Socialists to the Republicans as a young politician.

One of Macron’s aides welcomed the appointment as “a good move,” saying it would help him “break the right.”

Taking office on Sunday, the former investment banker who trounced far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 presidential run-off, said he aimed to restore France’s shattered self-confidence.

The fervently pro-European Macron also said he would help rebuild the flagging EU.

He was scheduled later in the day to travel to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on how Europe’s power couple can drive reforms of the bloc.

Like Macron, France’s new prime minister has little truck with the entrenched left-right divide.

After campaigning for former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard as a youth, he switched to the right, becoming a close ally of center-right former prime minister Alain Juppe.

Mayor of Le Havre, his home town, since 2010, the German-speaking father of three, who writes crime novels in his spare time, was elected to parliament in 2012.

His first task will be to help Macron finalize his Cabinet choices, to be announced later today.

France’s new president has said he wants a mix of experience and new blood — a balance he has attempted to achieve in his slate of candidates for the June 11 to June 18 election.

Macron needs a parliamentary majority to push through his ambitious plans to loosen France’s strict labor laws, boost entrepreneurship and reduce class sizes in tough neighborhoods.

However, his year-old party faces a strong challenge from the losers of the presidential election, with the Republicans, the National Front, the hard-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) and center-left Socialists all plotting revenge.

In his first speech as president on Sunday, Macron promised to restore France’s shattered self-confidence and help rebuild the flagging EU.

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