POLITICS – If Emmanuel Macron intended to send a political message, it was not that of a slash on the left. By appointing Jean Castex, hitherto in charge of managing deconfinement, to succeed Edouard Philippe and constitute the next government, the Head of State chose a loyal right-wing man to replace a man with fairly similar qualities.
Those who hoped for a national political figure, a resounding war, a woman, environmentalist or leftist, will therefore be at their expense.
Close to Nicolas Sarkozy, of which he co-directed the general secretariat at the Élysée at the end of his five-year term, this discreet fifty-year-old, with the false looks of Jacques Chirac and Jean-Michel Blanquer, is “a high-ranking official who knows the world of health and which is formidable of effectiveness ”. This is how Édouard Philippe, then Prime Minister, summed it up by announcing his appointment last April, when he was given the delicate mission of piloting the intergovernmental strategy of deconfinement.
An experienced senior civil servant and mayor of a small town, Jean Castex certainly combines knowledge of the terrain and mastery of the machinery of the administration, precious assets for managing the delicate period of recovery from the crisis. But it is not a blank page in political matters. Mayor LR of Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales), re-elected in the first round with 75.72% of the vote, led most of his career in the wake of the UMP right.
Praised by the Sarkozysts and Xavier Bertrand
“He’s a real Swiss army knife, he has connections everywhere, he can do what needs to be done in the right place,” says Franck Louvrier, the former communications advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy.
Little known to the general public, Jean Castex knows the hospital sector particularly well, having been in 2005-2006 director of hospitalization and the organization of care at the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Cohesion.
He then became director of cabinet to Xavier Bertrand twice, first at the Ministry of Health (2006-2007) and then at Work (2007-2008). “Politically, I am on the right and I assume it perfectly”, emphasized this member of the Court of Auditors.
Member of the Republicans, he supports the candidacy of François Fillon against Jean-François Copé for the presidency of the UMP during the congress of autumn 2012. But he also knows how to manage support for La République en Marche: his name had a time circulated at the end of 2018 to become Minister of the Interior after the departure of Gérard Collomb. The ex-socialist Christophe Castaner had finally been preferred to Jean Castex, former deputy secretary general of the Élysée under Nicolas Sarkozy.
His skills were not unrelated to his rise, including today as head of a government which will have to anticipate a possible second wave of coronavirus. “The first pandemic plan is Jean Castex who is dircab” at the time of the H5N1 virus, recalls Xavier Bertrand, stressing that “WHO then indicated that we were one of the best prepared countries in the world” .
“The side ‘I put you in place a plan that does not work on the ground’ is really not the kind of house Castex”, he adds, praising “the clear ideas and outspokenness ”Of this“ rectified enarch elected local ”.
A negotiator more than a politician
Concrete on the health side, Castex also knows how to play the social fiber while Emmanuel Macron put on the table a pension reform hated by unions and the opposition.
When he was operating in the shadows, Jean Castex left his interlocutors with the union centers with the memory of a man “available” and “pleasant” even if he “hides a certain firmness”, with “an excellent knowledge of his files ”,“ Someone we can talk to ”.
By designating him, Emmanuel Macron thus offers a right arm renowned for his loyalty and which should not overshadow him by 2022.
Jean Castex was until his appointment to the deconfinement interministerial delegate to the Paris-2024 Olympic Games and major sporting events, and also chaired the National Sports Agency.
Regional councilor of Languedoc-Roussillon from 2010 to 2015, he was defeated in the legislative elections of 2012 by the candidate PS Ségolène Neuville. This father of four has retained the southern accent and remains attached to his native Gers, where he had not given up spending the weekends when he was at the Élysée. In Matignon’s hell, it may be another story.
See also on The HuffPost: For Mr. Déconfinement, “the problem is not the lack of tests but that people get tested”