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Macron's rainbow cabinet meets for the first time

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President Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France's new government held its first cabinet meeting under Emmaneul Macron on Thursday, with many of the ministers meeting each other for the first time. The new president Macron carried out his promise to appoint the same number of women as men - but just one woman was given a senior role.
 


There is a diverse mix across the political and social spectrum in the list of the 22 new French cabinet members. President Macron's first appointment this week of a prime minister, Edouard Philippe, from right-wing party Les Républicains, apparently sparked other figures to join government from the right. Now Macron's new government contains key figures from the left, the right and indeed the centre in this decidedly rainbow gathering.

These include Bruno Le Maire, a former agriculture minister and secretary of state for Europe under Sarkozy. He has been named economy minister, a role which Macron once held himself. Gérald Darmanin, another Sarkozy ally from the right, will work with him in charge of public finances.

Political Opposition

This first gathering was described as energised, with many of these new ministers politically opposed. This forces the question of how long they can work together.

"I really doubt that there will be a unity in this government. I even believe that it will not last very long because there are too many personalities in opposition to each other. it will become a nightmare very, very quickly. You will judge a government by how it is working. I think this is not diversity. I think it will be a genuine mess at the end," said MP for Yvelines with Les Republicains, Jacques Myard.

One of Macron’s biggest coups was the appointment of the environmentalist and former TV personality, Nicolas Hulot, to head a broad new environment ministry. But this will bring Hulot potentially into serious conflict with the new prime minister Edouard Philippe on the issue of nuclear energy.

But this diverse new government is not entirely without hope, as explained by Assistant Professor in Politics at Ecole Polytechnique, Vincent Martigny.

"Today, this is a cabinet that does show signs of modernity and innovation, but at the same time it is also hostage to the right. The fact that the new prime minister, Monsieur Philippe, comes from the Republicans also explains how they had a number of top jobs in the cabinet.

"I don't think there will be a honeymoon period, the public will be watching the first actions of the new cabinet and will respond accordingly."

65-year-old François Bayrou, a former education minister and founder of the centrist Democratic Movement (MoDem) political party has been appointed the new Minister for Justice.

He is also a three time French presidential candidate, but this year, in a surprise move, he chose not to enter the race and to endorse Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy instead. This endorsement was seen as a key moment in Macron's campaign.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the leading Socialist who was defence minister in the last government under François Hollande, has been appointed foreign minister – one of two figures from Hollande’s mandate to now serve under Macron’s presidency.

Macron did achieve gender equality in his cabinet, but only one of the government’s top five roles – defence – went to a woman, Sylvie Goulard.

Goulard is a member of the European parliament and she was Macron’s top European adviser during the presidential campaign, masterminding his meetings with the German chancellor Angela Merkel.