Macron reshuffles French cabinet, ditches minister under rape probe

French President Emmanuel Macron reshuffled his government on Monday after losing his majority in the National Assembly, notably dropping Damien Abad, the Minister of Solidarity accused of attempted rape. Follow our live blog to find out who is and who is not in Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s cabinet. All times are in Paris time (GMT+2).

12:30 p.m .: Greenpeace deplores the lack of green credentials of the new minister

The French branch of Greenpeace criticized the appointment of Christophe Béchu as environment minister, pointing to his lack of background in the matter.

“Appointing to such a key position a politician with no experience of the green transition (…) demonstrates a clear lack of ambition,” the NGO said in a statement.

Greenpeace also pointed to the lack of stability in the environment ministry, which has seen six different ministers in five years.

Béchu, the mayor of Angers and former member of the conservative party The Republicanshad previously been appointed Deputy Minister for Local Government, a position he held just weeks before the latest reshuffle.

12:20 a.m.: Balance of power “unchanged”

“This government will not change the balance of power in parliament,” said FRANCE 24 political editor Marc Perelman, noting that the new cabinet appointments are unlikely to appeal to opposition MPs in the French parliament.

12:05 p.m.: What’s next?

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to deliver her political speech on Wednesday and may ask her new cabinet for a vote of confidence afterwards.

The left-wing opposition, which emerged stronger from parliamentary elections last month, said it would call for a vote of no confidence if it failed to do so.

Often a formality in a country used to stable parliamentary majorities, the vote of confidence will be a delicate step for Macron’s ruling coalition, which has lost its absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Macron has not announced any coalition pacts with other parties to build a working majority or poached big names from the opposition.

11:45 am: Top jobs unchanged

As expected, Macron is retaining his top ministers, including Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who also faced rape charges and was recently criticized for the Champions League final fiasco in Saint-Denis.

Gérald Darmanin remains Minister of the Interior, a position often described as "best cop".
Gérald Darmanin remains Minister of the Interior, a post often described as “best cop” in France. © Medhi Fedouach, AP

Also remaining are Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, Education Minister Pap Ndiaye and Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt.

11:25 am: A new face for post-Brexit discussions

Laurence Boone, chief economist of the OECD, will be the new British counterpart in the post-Brexit talks after his appointment as minister for Europe.

She succeeds Clément Beaune, who moves to the Ministry of Transport.

11:15 a.m.: Véran, face of the fight against Covid, becomes government spokesperson

The French presidency has appointed former health minister Olivier Véran as government spokesperson, confirming these previous media reports.

Olivier Véran has become a familiar face in France thanks to frequent press conferences during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Olivier Véran has become a familiar face in France thanks to frequent press conferences during the Covid-19 pandemic. © Bertrand Guay, PA

Véran succeeds Olivia Grégoire who switches to the trade and tourism portfolio.

Franck Riester, the outgoing trade minister, will take over Véran’s current post as deputy minister in charge of relations with parliament.

10:55 am: Macron replaces the trio of ministers defeated at the polls

In addition to Abad’s exit, the Elysee Palace announced three new appointments to replace ministers who were defeated in legislative elections last month.

  • Francois Braun becomes Minister of Health, replacing Brigitte Bourguignon. Braun previously ran Samu-Urgences, an association representing emergency healthcare workers.
  • Christophe Bechu replaces Amelie de Montchalin as environment minister, a key portfolio for Macron, who has promised to put the transition to a green economy at the heart of his second term. Béchu previously served as Deputy Minister of Local Government.
  • Herve Berville, a Breton deputy, is the new minister delegated to the sea (in charge of fishing, among other things). He takes over from Justine Beninwho lost his parliamentary seat in the French Caribbean.

10:45 a.m.: Abad leaves the practice

It’s official. Damien Abad is absent from the French government, replaced by Jean-Christophe Combe as Minister of Solidarity and Social Cohesion, according to a press release from the Elysée.

Combe was previously head of the French Red Cross.

10:35 am: All eyes are on the minister accused of attempted rape

All eyes will be on the fate of Minister Damien Abad, the Minister for Solidarity and Social Cohesion who has been accused of abuse by three separate women.

Prosecutors opened a formal investigation into Abad after a woman accused him of attempted rape at a party in 2010.

Abad, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a rare disease that affects the joints, denies the allegations and has vowed to sue his accuser.

New French minister Damien Abad denies rape accusations

The new Minister of Solidarity Damien Abad "competition in the strongest terms" the "accusations of sexual violence" made against him, he said on May 22, 2022 in a statement sent to AFP, following accusations of rape published by the Mediapart site.
The new Minister of Solidarity Damien Abad “contests with the greatest firmness” the “accusations of sexual violence” brought against him, he declared on May 22, 2022 in a press release sent to AFP, following rape charges published by the Mediapart site. © Stephane de Sakutin, AFP

Allegations against the 42-year-old in the run-up to parliamentary elections in June have been seen as one of many factors that led Macron’s MPs to lose their majority.

The president was criticized by a schoolgirl while in the south of France on June 6 who asked him why he “put at the head of the state men accused of rape and violence against women” .

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is also the subject of a rape complaint filed in 2017.

10:05 am: Former Minister of Health appointed government spokesperson, according to BFM

Olivier Véran, who served as Minister of Health during the Covid-19 pandemic, will take over as government spokesperson, BFM TV reported, without naming his source.

Véran, a technocrat, became visible to the general public as a key minister who led the country through most of the health crisis.

He was appointed minister for relations with parliament after the presidential election in April.

9:50 am: The Minister of Finance remains in office

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter radio that he would keep his current job.

This comes as no surprise, with Le Maire being one of Macron’s most prominent ministers.

9:45 a.m.: An essential reshuffle

The reshuffle became necessary for Macron after the defeat of some ministers in the legislative elections last month, forcing them to resign, in accordance with French political tradition.

Some cabinet seats had also been vacant since Macron’s re-election in April.

But the scope of the overhaul could be wider, with Macron seeking to balance power in his own alliance and send a signal to voters that he has heard their call for change.

>> Read more: After losing the majority, can Macron strike a deal with opposition parties?


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