With Jean Castex at Matignon, Emmanuel Macron takes over the reins

Jean Castex and Emmanuel Macron, in January 2019. – Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

  • The Head of State has appointed Jean Castex to succeed Edouard Philippe in Matignon.
  • By choosing this servant of the State as Prime Minister, the president risks disappointing those who were waiting for a “renewal”.
  • But the head of state also seems to want to regain control in the run-up to 2022.

After several days of floating, Emmanuel Macron decided. The Head of State decided this Friday to appoint Jean Castex to Matignon to replace Edouard Philippe. It is “a Macronian choice, in line with the spirit of excess carried by the president for three years,” said the Elysee in a statement.

The former “Mr. Deconfinement” of the executive must form his government in the coming days to set to music the “reinvention” promised by Emmanuel Macron for the end of the quinquennium. But by choosing this 55-year-old technocrat, the head of state also seems to want to regain control in the perspective of 2022.

From one enarch to another

During the transfer of power this Friday afternoon in Matignon, the new Prime Minister declared to the address of his predecessor: “our styles are different”. However, the profile of Jean Castex resembles that of the mayor of Le Havre. The new tenant of Matignon is unknown to the general public, who came from the right, went through the ENA and the law firms, but in contact with the territories through his mandate as mayor of Prades, in the Pyrénées-Orientales… “It looks like the portrait- Edouard Philippe’s robot from 2017 ”, laughs MoDem MP Erwan Balanant. “A senior official [qui] is formidable in efficiency, ”had also praised his predecessor by appointing him in early April coordinator of the national post-coronavirus deconfinement strategy.

But by placing this “servant of the State” – he declared in particular, when he took office, that “the service of the State must prevail over everything” – in Matignon, while some hoped for a figure of the ecology or a political heavyweight, does Emmanuel Macron risk disappointing? The LREM deputies did not rush to respond to our requests this Friday. “I don’t know him, sorry”, thus eludes an influential LREM deputy. “The least we can say is that we have not often heard about ecology before this day …”, laments on Twitter the former LREM MP Matthieu Orphelin, close to Nicolas Hulot.

Change through continuity?

“We could expect a leftist personality and some may be disappointed, me first. But on reflection, that doesn’t count much. The important thing is the political inflection that it will implement, ”replies Erwan Balanant. Jean Castex will be responsible for the “new path” that the Head of State has started to draw. In the context of the economic crisis, the president has set three priorities: the Ségur de la santé, a plan for the elderly and another for young people.

But the last two years of mandate seem to be a continuation, like the pension reform, back on track. “The course on which I embarked on in 2017 remains true,” justified the president in an interview with the regional press this Thursday. “When the turn is too steep, we risk going off the road,” defends Bruno Questel, LREM deputy from Eure. “Jean Castex embodies an economic liberalism with a social fiber, which is consistent with the choices of the president. The important thing will be to revive the economy and continue the reforms. As for ecology, it will be embodied by a significant personality in the days to come, ”he promises.

“The President takes a Prime Minister in his hand to impose his choices”

With this change of head, Emmanuel Macron also takes over. Because if he confides that he had a “unique relationship of trust” with Edouard Philippe, the executive duo also experienced substantive divergences repeatedly : on the 80 km / h, the carbon tax, the pivotal age of the pension reform or even the end of confinement.

“Jean Castex does not have the Juppeist rigidity of his predecessor. The president takes a Prime Minister in his hand to impose his choices and his priorities ”, remarks a close friend of the president. “It’s a daring bet, because Edouard Philippe was talented and very popular”. This recovery is illustrated by the choice of the director of cabinet of Jean Castex: Jean Revel, a close friend of Emmanuel Macron that the president had tried to put in the paws of Edouard Philippe on his arrival in Matignon in 2017, in vain.

“I never had the impression that the president lost his hand on anything, even if Edouard Philippe came out more popular from the coronavirus crisis”, nuance Erwan Balanant. “And if Jean Castex does not really have a political marker, the government team he will lead will give indications.” Members of the next government will be known by Wednesday.