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France's New Prime Minister: Conservative, Pro-European And A Novelist

Conservative lawmaker Edouard Philippe has been chosen to be the next prime minister. Philippe is mayor of Le Havre, France.
Charly Triballeau
AFP/Getty Images
Conservative lawmaker Edouard Philippe has been chosen to be the next prime minister. Philippe is mayor of Le Havre, France.

In his first major decision, newly inaugurated French President Emmanuel Macron has named conservative lawmaker Edouard Philippe as prime minister.

Philippe has been the mayor of Le Havre, a port city in the Normandy region of northern France, since 2010 and became a member of parliament for the region two years later. He is a close ally of Alain Juppé, the former prime minister who ran unsuccessfully in the center-right presidential primary last year.

Macron is seeking to attract members from both the right and left to his new political party, La République en Marche (Republic on the Move), in time for next month's parliamentary elections. Selecting Philippe as prime minister is seen as a way to bring in more support from the center-right, which Macron will need to push through his proposed economic reforms, according to the BBC.

Last week, the new party announced "a list of 428 candidates for June's elections, half of whom were women," the broadcaster says. "Only 5% were MPs in the outgoing French parliament — and those MPs were all from the Socialist left."

Half of the party's candidates are regular citizens with no political background, reports NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

Philippe and Macron have much in common, with Philippe echoing the generational shift in French politics that the 39-year-old Macron embodies. (At 46, Philippe is the country's youngest head of government since 1984.) Both Macron and Philippe went to top universities and worked in the private sector. And both are pro-European, according to France24, which notes that Philippe graduated from secondary school in Bonn, Germany, and speaks fluent German.

Philippe was the expected choice for PM, though he was not well known in France until last week, according to The New York Times. As news of his candidacy spread, French television channels started following his movements live with cameramen on motorbikes.

That sort of intrigue might appeal to Philippe. The new prime minister has co-authored two political thrillers: L'Heure de vérité (The Hour of Truth) and Dans l'ombre (In the Shadows).

And the suspense may be just beginning. If Macron's party doesn't win a majority of the 577 available seats in next month's legislative elections, Philippe's job could be in jeopardy.

"French presidents are free to choose their prime ministers, but only if they hold a majority in the National Assembly," the Times reports. "If that is not the case, the party that dominates the assembly has the leverage to insist that one of its members become prime minister. That means that Mr. Macron could be forced to replace his prime minister, depending on the outcome of the June elections."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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