French president Emmanuel Macron has appointed Edouard Philippe, a little-known centre-right politician, as his prime minister in an attempt to build a majority in parliament for his year-old centrist party.
Mr Macron’s poaching of Mr Philippe to lead his government was announced on the new president’s first full day in office. Less than a month before legislative elections, it is a new blow to the conservative Republican party, whose presidential nominee François Fillon was engulfed in an embezzlement scandal and failed to make it through to the election run-off.
France’s new president wants to accelerate the breakdown of the parties that have shared power in the country for the past four decades, hoping it will help him secure a majority for his Republique en Marche movement in legislative elections in June.
So far it has been easier for Mr Macron to attract politicians from the Socialist party — which was humiliated in the presidential election when Benoît Hamon took just 6.5 per cent of the vote — than to lure conservatives into his camp.
Despite Mr Fillon’s poor showing, the Republicans still hope to win a significant share of seats in the national legislature. They are counting on a network of locally elected officials and the political inexperience of Mr Macron’s party, whose parliamentary candidates are mostly political newcomers.
However, Mr Macron’s appointment of Mr Philippe may help him to peel away more moderate Republicans and deepen divisions in the centre-right party.
The new prime minister, 46, is mayor of Le Havre, the port in north-west France, as well as its representative in the National Assembly. Like Mr Macron, he is liberal on social issues and pro-business on the economy.
Mr Philippe is seen as close to Alain Juppé, the former centre-right prime minister who lost to Mr Fillon in primary elections last year. He was briefly a member of the Socialist party in his twenties.
A graduate of ENA, the elite university that grooms high-flying civil servants, Mr Philippe previously worked as a corporate lawyer for Debevoise & Plimpton and for nuclear group Areva as its chief of public affairs.
Mr Philippe wrote a weekly column in leftwing daily newspaper Libération during the presidential campaign. In one column a few days before this month’s presidential second round, he suggested that Mr Macron would “need to transgress” if he wanted to revolutionise French politics.
“His path will be narrow and risky. One has a hard time imagining the old system letting it happen,” Mr Philippe wrote.
Mr Philippe is expected to the name the members of his full government on Tuesday. His tenure at Matignon, the premier’s office, could prove short lived if Mr Macron’s REM party and its allies fail to win a solid majority on June 18.