French President picks new Prime Minister, Castex

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President Emmanuel Macron of France has named Jean Castex, a top civil servant and local mayor who orchestrated France’s coronavirus lockdown exit strategy, as his new prime minister on Friday as he acted to reinvent his administration and win back voters.

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 Castex as a senior civil servant whose experience in local politics would help Macron connect with provincial France.

The announcement followed the resignation of Edouard Philippe ahead of a widely anticipated overhaul of the government by Macron.

The Elysée palace said in a statement that Edouard Philippe had “today handed in the government’s resignation to the president of the republic, who accepted it”, adding that he would stay in place until a new government was appointed.

A reshuffle has been expected for some time, and it is common practice for a French president to replace a prime minister during the five-year term in office known as the “quinquennat”.

Mr Macron came to power three years ago but now faces an economic crisis after the coronavirus pandemic.

In the interview with regional newspapers, he spoke of a “very tough” recovery for France, and focused on the immediate priority of saving jobs, as well as economic, social and environmental reconstruction.

Mr Philippe will now take up the post of mayor in Le Havre, after winning the local vote on Sunday.

His resignation clears the way for him to become mayor of the northern port, from where he could emerge as a rival to Macron in two years time.

A removal van and cardboard boxes were seen arriving at his Matignon residence on Friday indicating he was preparing to move out.