France’s Macron begins fine-tuning team after parliament sweep

Paris (AFP) – President Emmanuel Macron began fine-tuning his government team on Monday after his centrist party redrew France’s political map with a resounding victory in parliamentary elections, dealing him a strong hand to forge ahead with pro-EU, business-friendly reforms.

Macron, France’s youngest-ever president at 39, asked close ally Richard Ferrand, who is embroiled in a conflict of interest scandal, to leave his cabinet and seek the leadership of the ruling Republic on the Move (REM) party in parliament.

Ferrand, under preliminary investigation over alleged favouritism towards his common-law wife in a lucrative property deal, agreed to step down as territorial cohesion minister, his entourage said. He denies any wrongdoing.

Macron meanwhile reappointed rightwinger Edouard Philippe as prime minister, and asked him to unveil a new government lineup by 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Wednesday, sources in the president’s office said.

Although REM’s sweep fell short of a predicted landslide, the trailblazing party and its centrist ally MoDem won 350 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly after Sunday’s runoff vote. REM by itself, with 308 seats, has well over the 289 needed for an absolute majority.

The election was closely watched in Europe and around the world to see if Macron would secure a mandate to push through his pro-EU reform agenda.

– Politically less experienced –

The new parliament will be nearly six years younger on average, have a record 224 women lawmakers, and will be strikingly more varied in background — if politically less experienced.

The party that Macron founded just 14 months ago has caused a political earthquake, even if the winning score was considerably lower than the 470 seats predicted by some pre-vote surveys.

Macron’s confident start at home, where he has concentrated on trying to restore the lost prestige of the president, and his bold action on the international stage has inspired a raft of positive headlines.

Macron further burnished his…

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