The Castex Government
Emmanuel Macron’s self-reinvention did not get very far. The just-appointed Castex government is as unexciting as the new prime minister himself. After Philippe, Castaner and Belloubet were shown the door. Darmanin was moved to interior. Le Maire, Blanquer, and Le Drian remain in their posts.
So what distinguishes the new government from the old? Nothing, really, except that Macron is no longer the young man in a hurry who was going to reshape everything and transform French politics from top to bottom. By essentially keeping the old government in place and firing his popular prime minister, he demonstrates that he has failed to make good on his promise.
The new prime minister is slightly farther to the right than the old: he comes from the Sarkozy-Fillon faction of the party, not the Juppéistes. The idea that French politics could be rebuilt from the center out, which was the animating force of Macron’s 2017 presidency, is dead. This is a government of the right, a government that could have served under Sarkozy. There is scarcely even a thin patina of green.
Evidently Macron is satisfied with what he has achieved to date and wishes to stay the course. It is a strategy that has the virtue of keeping the Republicans divided and the left out of power and gasping for air. The chief Republican presidential hopefuls will find themselves in the position of running against a government that is not-Republican in name only. Macron’s re-election strategy remains “divide and conquer,” but having chosen to maintain the status quo ante, he has to worry that the Gilets Jaunes will have nowhere to turn but Le Pen, to whom most of them were drawn anyway, while whatever center-left support he enjoyed in 2017 is dissipated, he hopes, between the Greens and the Socialist rump.
This may prove a winning strategy, but it comes as a final disappointment to anyone who hoped that Macron might infuse new life into a moribund party system. He turns out to have been all along the conservative technocrat-cum-businessman his credentials proclaimed. He has no social vision beyond repeated professions of faith in an ever-emptier European dream. Whatever life was left in him was snuffed out by the Covid virus. He is a zombie president, who may yet be re-elected to a second five-year term. Bonjour tristesse.
Photo Credit: Chatsam, Grande cour de l’Hôtel Matignon, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.