With Jean Castex, Emmanuel Macron does not change course

Edouard Philippe and his successor at the Hôtel de Matignon during the handover between the two men on July 3, 2020. Thomas Samson, Pool via AP

Text by: Anthony Lattier Follow

Edouard Philippe left Matignon and was replaced by Jean Castex. The profile of the new Prime Minister is close to that of his predecessor: local elected official, senior civil servant and right-wing man. He worked at the Elysée Palace under Nicolas Sarkozy and recently distinguished himself by piloting the “deconfinement” of the country. President Emmanuel Macron changes his head and takes control of the government's action.


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Is Edouard Philippe the best place to embody “  the new era  ” that Emmanuel Macron wishes to open? To this question, the president, after much hesitation, finally replied: no. By separating Friday July 3 from Edouard Philippe and by appointing Jean Castex , the Head of State made the choice to change his head to better embody his will to move to another stage of his quinquennium, after a major health crisis which changed its reform agenda. 

The president wants to "  draw a new path  " for the two years he has left at the Elysée. But if he changes his companion, he does not intend to change direction. I believe that the course on which I embarked on in 2017 remains true,  " Emmanuel Macron said on Friday to several regional newspapers , who, during the confinement, promised to "  reinvent himself  ". The choice of Jean Castex leaves little doubt about the President's desire to stay the same. The profile of the new Prime Minister is indeed identical to that of his predecessor when he arrived in Matignon: a high-ranking official, on the right, elected local and unknown to French women and men. 

A sarkozyst replaces a juppeist

Within the right, their families of origin distinguish them, however. Edouard Philippe is close to Alain Juppé, Jean Castex to Nicolas Sarkozy. A graduate of Sciences Po and ENA (the National School of Administration), this high-ranking official praised for his seriousness and his sense of the state has just been re-elected mayor of Prades, a village in the Pyrénées-Orientales. His experience as an elected official should be useful to him in order to launch this summer a "  great conference of territories  " wanted by Emmanuel Macron. 

At 55, Jean Castex was in the president's little papers since he was entrusted in April with the mission of piloting the "deconfinement" of France. A " successful  " mission is  touted at the Elysee Palace, as the country prepares for a possible second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. The health crisis is unfortunately not over,  " warned Jean Castex when he took office in Matignon. And faced with the economic and social crisis "  which is already there  ", the new head of government wishes "  more than ever to reunite the nation  ". 

At the Elysee Palace, his appointment is presented as a "  Macronian choice, in line with the spirit of excitement carried by the president for three years  ". The presidency insists that Jean Castex certainly comes from the ranks of the right, but that he masters social issues. He worked at the Ministry of Labor with Xavier Bertrand and advised Nicolas Sarkozy on these subjects. His knowledge of social dialogue will be used to relaunch discussions on pension reform . Despite the opposition of the social partners, Emmanuel Macron does not wish to abandon this reform, even if he is "  open to it being transformed  ".

Takeover of the President

This appointment “  marks Emmanuel Macron's desire to take over the Matignon machine. Jean Castex is not very political, he has more of a profile as a collaborator of the Elysée,  "analyzes political scientist Benjamin Morel. Two years into the presidential election, the Head of State chooses a man with a "techno" profile who should not overshadow him while Edouard Philippe, unknown to the general public in 2017, has little by little took the light, to become at the end of the health crisis much more popular than the head of state, which made some people cringe close to Emmanuel Macron. Sign of this recovery, the director of cabinet of the new Prime Minister will be Nicolas Revel, close to the Head of State. Emmanuel Macron had tried in vain to impose him on this post to Edouard Philippe in 2017.  

►Also read: “A new stage in the quinquennium begins” with Jean Castex

Now free, can Edouard Philippe be a threat to Emmanuel Macron? More popular than the president, without partisan affiliation (he is not a member of La République en Marche), re-elected mayor of Le Havre and enjoying a good opinion among the voters of Emmanuel Macron as among those of the Les Républicains party, Edouard Philippe leaves at an ideal time for him. Despite the ups and downs of the quinquennium (movement of yellow vests, massive strike against pension reform, health crisis), he made a name for himself during his three years in Matignon. 

Philippe will " consolidate the majority  "

The relationship of trust [between the two men] remains intact  ", we know in the entourage of Edouard Philippe. The president entrusted to the one who was his faithful right-hand man for three years the task of "  consolidating the majority  " before the next presidential election. One way to neutralize it? Anyway, Edward Philip agreed to "  help  " the head of state for 2022. 

The negotiations started to constitute the new government whose composition is expected in the coming days. Many members of the old team are expected to leave the ship. Emmanuel Macron wants "  a new team  " who will have to tackle the priorities he has set: reviving the economy, health, equal opportunities, dependence, or even European sovereignty. This will be done without Edouard Philippe who returns to Le Havre, in the north-west of France, where he will be inducted Sunday mayor of the city for the second time. 

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