PARIS — Emmanuel Macron is circling the wagons.
The French president reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, appointing a loyalist to the key post of interior minister and naming relatively unknown figures to the agriculture and culture ministries in a bid to reboot his presidency in the face of plummeting approval ratings.
Though varied in profile, the choices suggest a safety-first approach from Macron, who opted for battle-tested political allies rather than headline-grabbing celebrities in the mold of ex-Environmental Minister Nicolas Hulot.
The shake-up creates new stewards for multiple ministries, while preserving the mix of ideologies in Macrons “neither right, nor left” administration. They also put an end to rife speculation over the fate of several ministers that had dominated domestic media coverage for nearly two weeks.
While going for a relatively low-profile reshuffle, Macron also chose to use the opportunity to reaffirm his personal leadership by delivering remarks live on French TV at 8 p.m, just hours after the announcement.
An intervention of some sort was needed.
The insistent resignation on October 3 of ex-Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, who opted to return to his hometown and run for mayor of Lyon, added to an impression of mounting disarray around the president. The reshuffle saga then dragged on for 13 days, requiring three postponements, as five candidates reportedly refused ministerial posts. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was forced to take on Collombs duties as the interim interior minister, adding visits to police units to crowded daily agendas.
Facing adversity, Macron chose to go for loyalty, in line with the recent picks of Environmental Minister François de Rugy and Parliament President Richard Ferrand.
Macron settled on Christophe Castaner, one of his most staunch allies and leader of the presidents centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party, to become the new interior minister. The selection puts a Macron loyalist in the prestigious post dubbed “Frances top cop.” Castaner will no longer be in charge of the ruling party.
Macron also used the reshuffle to solidify his partys partnership with the centrist Democratic Movement (MoDem), whose MPs had moaned in September about not having enough say in the election of Ferrand. MoDems Jacqueline Gourault takes charge of territorial cohesion and Marc Fesneau assumes responsibility for relations with parliament.
“She is part of my commando unit,” MoDem leader François Bayrou gushed about Gourault, also noting that Fesneau is “one of my right hands.”
Also promoted in the new line-up is Didier Guillaume, a Socialist senator who will take the reins of the agriculture ministry from Stéphane Travert, likewise of Socialist stock. The latter official sunk in public view after popular ex-Environment Minister Hulot cited his opposition to an early phase-out of controversial weedkiller glyphosate in his resignation.
Embattled Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, who faced probes into undeclared building renovations, is also out. Her replacement, MP Franck Riester, is a one-time ally of conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy who in 2017 broke away to found the Act party, which describes itself as being on the “constructive right.”
Both Guillaume and Riester are experienced career politicians, able to stick their neck out and fight for the government in the media if needed.
Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi, whose department has been restructured, will now report to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
The new government — not including the prime minister — respects gender parity, consisting of 17 men and 17 women.