Several weeks have passed for Emmanuel Macron to reshuffle the government following his relative defeat in the legislative elections of 19 June 2022. The loss of the absolute majority plunges him into an unprecedented situation, where political negotiations will be more complex than his victory in the presidential elections of April suggested.
Lengthy negotiations have taken place to arrive at the composition of this new government, with several challenges to be met. Some ministers were defeated in the elections and had to be replaced. Others—two of them, a man, Damien Abad, and a woman, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou—were under accusations of rape and sexual assault, making their retention in the government team undesirable, although the facts have not yet been clearly established. Finally, since the president’s party, Renaissance, no longer has an absolute majority in the National Assembly, Macron suggested that a government more “open” to other political formations might be valuable—while deliberately leaving the parties of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen out.
The composition of the new government was unveiled Monday morning, July 4th, and falls short of the expectations of renewal, since Borne and Macron barely changed the composition of the previous government. According to a familiar French expression, the composition could even be summed up as “on prend les mêmes et on recommence” (we take the same people and start again), and shows a certain blindness on the part of the Elysée. Traditional figures of the Macronie are making their return, like the media darling Marlène Schiappa, who is in charge of the “social and solidarity economy and associative life;” many ministers already in office remain in place, particularly on the regal ministries like Éric Dupont-Moretti at Justice, and Bruno Le Maire at Economy. The minister of national education, the indigenous activist Pap Ndiaye, appointed in May, remains in place. Finally, loyal members of Macron’s entourage also remain in the government, but with new positions.
Some of the appointments have drawn a lot of criticism from the opposition. Olivier Véran, former minister of health, responsible for the contested management of COVID, the hospital crisis during the pandemic, and the suspensions of non-vaccinated caregivers, has become the government spokesman. Gérald Darmanin, until now minister of the interior, who made a fool of himself a few weeks ago with the Liverpool-Madrid match scandal, has not only kept in his post but sees his responsibilities extended with an enlargement of his portfolio. He thus recovers the management of overseas affairs—the ministry of which disappears with the reshuffle. This sends a very negative signal to the ultra-marine communities, which are very hostile to the government and to vaccination, and raises fears of strong rebellions in the months to come, particularly in the Antilles, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.
The new minister of health is an emergency doctor called François Baun. He was in charge of health issues during Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, and has made a point of solving the deep crisis in which the French hospital is plunged. His actions will be especially scrutinised over the next few months.
The unveiling of this new government led by Elisabeth Borne does not generate much enthusiasm than the one put in place in mid-May. Neither renewal nor political openness are really in the cards, and no leading personality stands among the rather dull team, exuding the sense that Emmanuel Macron is managing current affairs rather than directing a political course. Sharp critics have hailed it as “recycling,” or “end of reign.” The Melenchonist deputy, Manuel Bompard, aware of the banal enthusiasm for the candidates, mocked them as shipmates on the governmental “Titanic.”
Marine Le Pen, for her part, criticised the new team for not taking into account the results of the 2022 elections.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is likely to not submit her new government to a vote of confidence from the deputies. The procedure is not mandatory, according to the 1958 constitution, but is demanded by the opposition. Given the deteriorating political situation, Borne would not risk obtaining this confidence and therefore refuses to be challenged.
As soon as she takes office, her government suffers from an undeniable lack of legitimacy.