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France

Technocrats, Macron loyalists dominate France's reshuffled government

media Emmanuel Macron (C) with R-L, Jean-Michel Blanquer (Education), Agnes Buzyn Health), Nicole Belloubet (Justice), Gerard Collomb (Interior), Florence Parly (Defence), Françoise Nyssen (Culture) Reuters/Christophe Petit

French President Emmanuel Macron has assembled a government of technocrats with no political big-hitters in the reshuffle that has followed last week's parliamentary election and seen the departure of four ministers who are facing legal problems.

Following the departure of François Bayrou from the justice ministry, the new cabinet is made up of little-known figures, several of them without much political experience but  with expertise in their fields, notably the economy and business.

Two other ministers from Bayrou's MoDem also quit because they could be implicated in an inquiry into allegations that the party used European parliament funds to pay party workers in France.

But two different MoDem members have been given posts.

Senator Jacqueline Gourault has been named a junior minister working with Interior Minister Gérard Collomb and Géneviève Darrieussecq will be working with Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, who has taken the post vacated by MoDem member Sylvie Goulard.

Modem remains "one of the pillars" of the government, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted on Wednesday evening.

But the party has traded three major posts for two minor ones - as well as Parly replacing Goulard at the Armed Forces portfolio, Nicole Belloubet replaces Bayrou and Nathalie Loiseau takes Marielle De Sarnez's place at European Affairs.

Socialist, Republicans defectors

Belloubet came over to the Macron camp from the Socialist Party, which having run the last government has been reduced to 29 seats, as did Stéphane Travert who has been named agriculture minister.

Other ministers have defected from the mainstream-right Republicans, notably Bruno Le Maire at Economy and Gérald Darmarin at Public Finance, although Macron right-hand man Benjamin Griveaux has been placed in the Economy Ministry to provide some counterbalance.

Two other "constructive" Republicans, Sébastien Lecornu and Baptiste Lemoyne, have also been given junior posts.

The number of close Macron allies has gone from three to five - Gérard Collomb, Christophe Castaner, Stéphane Travert, Julien Denormandie and Benjamin Griveaux - although former interior minister Richard Ferrand has left under something of a legal cloud to become leader of Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) in parliament.

Labour minister named in legal inquiry

But not all ministers who could face legal troubles have been persuaded to go.

Muriel Pénicaud, named in an inquiry into a trip Macron made to Las Vegas when he was economy minister, stays on as labour minister.

Several ministers have business backgrounds, among them Parly, a former Socialist politician who went on to hold management positions at Air France and the SNCF rail company, Pénicaud, who has been on the boards of several multinationals, and Transport Minister Elizabeth Borne, who has worked in ministries under Socialist government but also at the SNCF, construction company Eiffage and the Paris regional transport network, RATP.

The youngest minister is Mounir Mahjoubi, the tech expert of Macron's presidential campaign who had been involved in several startups as well as François Hollande's presidential campaign in 2012.

With 30 members, the cabinet is larger than the previous one and has exact gender parity, a first for France.

Denying that the departures were a sign of a political crisis, government spokesman Christophe Castaner said it was "tighter, younger, with more women".

First meeting Thursday

The cabinet held its first meeting Thursday morning with the plan for new anti-terrorist legislation top of the agenda.

The "danger level in France is extremely high", Collomb said.

The planned law would put an end to the state of emergency put in place after the November 2015 Paris attacks, although the government is expected to prolong it until 1 November when it runs out on 15 July.

Rights campaigners and politicians have opposed some of the proposals, such as extending the police right to search premises and to ban individuals from certain areas, arguing that they make permanent measures that have been temporary under the state of emergency and could be abused.

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