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Macron’s Cabinet shuffle points to parliamentary problems ahead for France

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PARIS (BLOOMBERG, AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron shuffled his Cabinet after losing his outright majority in parliament last month but made few changes, in a sign that he has failed to convince major opposition figures to join his coalition.

The 44-year-old centrist is keeping Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna in their posts.

Mr Macron also decided to keep Ms Elisabeth Borne, his 61-year-old former labour, ecology and transport minister, as premier. While she has been criticised by some in his own party for being a technocrat who lacks political clout, she has been loyal to Mr Macron.

After being the face of the crisis throughout most of the coronavirus pandemic, new government spokesman Olivier Veran, who had moved from health to a different Cabinet role in May, will be in charge of presenting government policy.

France’s political life has been effectively paralysed since Mr Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen in April’s presidential election. It took him weeks to pick a prime minister and a government, which he was forced to shuffle after disappointing results in last month’s legislative elections.

Here are the other key takeaways:

1. Ms Laurence Boone replaces Mr Clement Beaune as Delegate Minister for Europe. Ms Boone was the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s chief economist.

Before that, she was an economic adviser to former Socialist President Francois Hollande Beaune, who represents the left-leaning wing of Mr Macron’s party, becomes junior minister for transport, just as train, airport and aircraft workers consider strike action to demand wage hikes in line with inflation.

2. Mr Christophe Bechu, an ally of former premier Edouard Philippe, was promoted to ecology minister, while emergency room doctor Francois Braun becomes health minister.

They replace ministers who failed to be elected as lawmakers in June.

3. Right-leaning Franck Riester will handle relations with parliament, suggesting that Mr Macron is likely lean on his allies and the right to govern. Mr Macron chose not to reappoint Mr Damien Abad as minister of solidarity, after French prosecutors began investigating him over an allegation of attempted rape.

4. France’s energy regulator Jean-Francois Carenco was appointed junior minister in charge of overseas territories. This means he needs to be replaced amid energy market turmoil and as France seeks to push for new regulation of Electricite de France SA’s nuclear plants.

5. Mr Macron gave Ms Borne less than two weeks to come up with what he called a “government of action” and to sound out other parties for areas of agreement. But during meetings with rival party representatives, she did not offer any concrete concessions, according to attendees.

Mr Macron himself had ruled out working with the far-right and the far-left parties, Ms Le Pen’s National Rally and Mr Jean-Luc Melenchon’s France Unbowed, from the start.

Mr Macron, who is known for his top-down and centralised approach, will now be forced to strike ad-hoc alliances with dozens of lawmakers to be sure to have a majority to push through his pro-business reforms, such as raising the retirement age.

Ms Borne is set to make a speech to parliament about her policy plans on Wednesday (July 6). The Cabinet is slated to introduce a draft Bill to support purchasing power this week, which will debated by the National Assembly from July 18 in a test of Mr Macron’s ability to pass legislation. Some of the measures included in the package, such as a one-off check for poorer households, should have broad support.

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