President Emmanuel Macron named Jean Castex, a top civil servant and local Mayor who orchestrated France’s COVID-19 lockdown exit strategy, as his new Prime Minister on Friday as he acted to reinvent his administration and win back voters. Mr. Castex, 55, hails from the centre-right of French politics and served for two years as the second-highest ranking official in the Elysee Palace during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.
An Elysee official described Mr. Castex as a senior civil servant whose experience in local politics would help Mr. Macron connect with provincial France. Mr. Castex was a “social Gaullist”, the official said in reference to the more interventionist, socially minded wing of France’s centre-right. The announcement followed the resignation of Edouard Philippe ahead of a widely anticipated overhaul of the government by Mr. Macron.
Mr. Macron is reshaping his government as France grapples with the deepest economic depression since Second World War, a sharp downturn that will shrink the economy by about 11% in 2020. The local elections revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Mr. Macron’s troubles connecting with ordinary people. His La Republique en Marche party failed to win a single major city, depriving the President of a local power base ahead of 2022. The most notable win was Mr. Philippe’s success in his old redoubt of Le Havre and his resignation clears the way for him to become Mayor of the northern port, from where he could emerge as a rival to Mr. Macron in two years time.