16 May 2017

Macron picks mayor from opposing party for PM

6:43 am on 16 May 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron has chosen the centre-right mayor of Le Havre, Edouard Philippe, as the country's new prime minister.

Edouard Philippe, right, shakes hands with his predecessor Bernard Cazeneuve after delivering a speech during an official handover ceremony at the Hotel Matignon.

Edouard Philippe, right, shakes hands with his predecessor Bernard Cazeneuve after delivering a speech during an official handover ceremony at the Hotel Matignon. Photo: AFP

Mr Philippe, 46, is not from the president's new centrist party but from the centre-right Les Republicains (Republicans).

The choice is seen as an attempt to draw in key figures from both the right and left of French politics.

On his first full day as president, Mr Macron travelled to Berlin where he was welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He was greeted with full military honours.

The naming of a new prime minister, Mr Macron's first big appointment, came a day after he was inaugurated as president.

President Macron faces crucial parliamentary elections next month and may need the support of the centre right to push through his planned economic reforms.

His new party, La République en Marche (Republic on the move), announced last week a list of 428 candidates for the June vote, half of whom were women.

Only 5 percent were MPs in the outgoing French parliament - and those MPs were all from the Socialist left.

Who is Edouard Philippe?

France's newly appointed Prime Minister Edouard Philippe poses prior to taking part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1.

France's newly appointed Prime Minister Edouard Philippe poses prior to taking part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1. Photo: AFP

Already tipped as favourite for the job, Mr Philippe, who was mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre, has long been close to Republican presidential nomination runner-up Alain Juppé.

Not a widely known politician in France, he has for years been seen as Mr Juppé's right-hand man and backed his unsuccessful 2016 bid to secure the centre-right presidential nomination.

He quit the Republican campaign when the chosen candidate, François Fillon, was engulfed in a "fake jobs" investigation.

This year he likened Mr Macron's treatment of his earlier mentor, President François Hollande, to Brutus's despatch of Julius Caesar.

Before he became mayor of Le Havre, he worked in the private sector and co-wrote a political thriller with Gilles Boyer, who went on to run the Juppé campaign.

Why reaction is mixed

Several weeks ago, Mr Macron tweeted that he was keen on selecting a woman prime minister, and there was some disappointment on social media that he had so far failed to choose a woman for any cabinet role.

In Mr Philippe's own Republican party, reaction to his appointment was mixed. Alain Juppé praised the new prime minister as a man of "great talent".

Another leading Republican, Bruno Le Maire, welcomed the appointment as an attempt to overcome old political divisions.

Republicans secretary-general Bernard Accoyer said there was no political agreement between the two parties.

"Will this new prime minister support the president's En Marche candidates ... or the candidates of his political family?" he asked.

Another Republican, Eric Ciotti, accused the new prime minister of taking part in Mr Macron's bid to "destabilise" the centre right.

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