'Complicated Juggling Act': Macron Must Satisfy Left and Right - Professor

© REUTERS / Philippe WojazerFrench President Emmanuel Macron walks back to his office after a meeting with guests at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 31, 2017
French President Emmanuel Macron walks back to his office after a meeting with guests at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 31, 2017 - Sputnik International
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to reshuffle his government within days, according to reports. The move comes after the resignation of the country’s interior minister Gerard Collomb. He was the third French minister to resign in five weeks following resignations by the ecology minister Nicolas Hulot and sports minister Laura Flessel.

Officials earlier stated that the minister would be replaced within a few days. Radio Sputnik has discussed the reported Cabinet reshuffle in France with Paul Smith, a Nottingham University professor specializing in French politics.

Sputnik: So what are your thoughts about the reported Cabinet reshuffle in France and also about the fact that [Heather Alban] said that there will not be a reshuffle prior to Macron's return from Armenia?

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Paul Smith: Well, what has to happen in France nowadays is that they recently set up, under the previous president they set up a high authority that has to vet all ministerial candidates have to check their, the background checks on their financial situation, make sure there are no skeletons in the cupboards. And that process which was begun last week still has to complete itself and that's one of the aspects that's pushing it back.

But the other thing is that Macron, as we know is a centrist president and that means that he has to, in his appointments, satisfy both those who are on the left of his movement and those who are on the right and that's quite a complicated juggling act to perform. So that's why it's taking so long.

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Sputnik: Okay. What can you say about the resignations though? Three ministers abruptly resigned from Edouard Philippe's cabinet in the past weeks. And what do you think were behind those resignations? Of course, we have seen that Emmanuel Macron has been seeing a weakened position, he has lost some popularity over the past months. And do you think that this could be related or what other reasons could there be for these resignations?

Paul Smith: Well, I think we can take the resignations; they're three very different resignations. Hulot, the ecology minister, the environment minister, was a bit of a surprise. It was an enormous surprise that he was appointed, that he accepted an appointment in the first place and he began to feel very frustrated as minister for the environment with the way that the government was pushing on with environmental policy and in some cases having to bow to vested interest or seeming to bow to vested interest.

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So that was the first thing and that was a kind of a sense, that there was a lot of speculation among specialists in the field that he would; that if anybody was the first to go it might well be him and so it turned out. Flessel was a bit different. She was… there were suggestions of some financial impropriety; they've not been proved one way or the other, but there was a sense that you know, she resigned before she had to as it were before she was removed from office.

Collomb is a slightly different issue. Collomb was always, he always struck me as very unlikely minister of the interior and he was made the minister of the interior as a reward for his support for Macron from the early days. He was a socialist who came over to Macron in the early days of the campaign. But there was an increasing feeling as time went on with Collomb as minister of interior that he wasn't really up to the job.

And certainly, there's been a sense the news that's reaching us is that both Edouard Philippe and other members of the government and the party, particularly Christophe Castaner, were feeling that the Benalla affair showed that Collomb was not really in control of what was happening. So and then when Collomb said: "well, I'll be going anyway after the European elections" there was a lot of pressure that maybe he should go now and allow Edouard Philippe and Macron to put somebody a bit more permanent in place.

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So they were quite different in terms of the kind of resignations. In terms of the popularity, I don't think they've helped Macron's popularity and Edouard Philippe's popularity but I don't think they've made a major dent. I think the drop in the popularity is something that's part and parcel nowadays of in western democracies, you know the fate of elected leaders almost as soon as they reach office.

Sputnik: Right. Do you think that this could be an opportunity for him to actually reposition himself in you know with the reshuffling of the cabinet, actually position himself in a stronger way with the appointment of new ministers to take the places?

Paul Smith: Well, it's difficult to say. I mean some people have used the idea of the reset button; that this will be the kind of the second phase of Macron. I think he would have preferred it to happen a few months down the line, say after the European elections, but his hand has been forced.

I think what is a problem for Macron has been not just the balancing like I've mentioned just now, but who are the strong, the well-known people, the well-known figures that he can appoint and of course the answer is there aren't any because his party is, you know, is so new. So, there is quite a lot of negotiating to go on. Essentially Macronism is a coalition.

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So keeping all of the elements happy will be tricky in the end, from the high politics end. But he will then hope and Edouard Philippe will then hope that they put the right people in place to carry forward interior policy. So that's obviously police and security, but also to pursue immigration policy and then you know the reshuffle might mean that other people either are shuffled out or that others are moved around. So, it may look like a very different cabinet but as we know at this time there have been leaks, there have been names mentioned but nothing is really getting out about who the potential people would be in the key ministries.

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Sputnik: Right. Actually, left-lawmaker Alexis Corbière told BFM TV that many are asking themselves, you know, about what they should do as far as appointments because they don't want to be finished politically by becoming a minister in the government that risks descending into crisis in less than a year. Would you agree with that statement?

Paul Smith: Well, you know, Alexis Corbière has his point of view. I mean, I think that he has a very political point. That's exactly what you would expect from him. That you know ministers are going to take risks, but you always take a risk if you join a government. You have to be prepared to make decisions that aren't particularly popular. What Macron and Philippe and the other members of the Cabinet will want to do is to make the right choices, but one is that's carrying through a program.

Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Paul Smith and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

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