France’s Emmanuel Macron suffered yet another blow to his presidency on Wednesday after he was forced to accept the resignation of the interior minister, one of his most robust defenders.
Fresh blow to Macron as third French minister resigns
Gerard Collomb is the third minister to quit in the last few weeks amid the French President plummeting in opinion poll ratings.
Collomb insisted he wanted to step down despite Macron having rejected his resignation less than 24 hours earlier. Two weeks ago, the 71-year-old had told the newspaper Le Figaro he wanted to resign so he could re-run as mayor of his hometown Lyon.
The longtime socialist initially indicated that he would resign after European elections in May 2019, however, critics argued it was irresponsible to run such a powerful ministry while preparing for the campaign trail.
The Elysée finally announced that the president had “accepted the resignation of Gerard Collomb and asked the prime minister to act in his place until the announcement of a successor”.
Why the fallout?
The relationship between the former interior minister and Macron plummeted over a scandal surrounding the President’s bodyguard Alexandre Benalla.
The former security aide was filmed beating up protesters while wearing a police helmet over the summer. After it emerged that senior officials knew about the scandal, Collomb laid the blame on Macron’s office and said it was their responsibility to report the incident.
Georgina Wright, a researcher at International Affairs Think Tank, Chatham House, told Euronews, while Collomb’s resignation does not come as a surprise: “The big message or signal we’ve received from his early resignation is that this kind of problem is with Macron’s leadership style. Before, his resignation was about his own ambitions.”
Adding that Collomb could be after the top job as France has a tradition of mayors later becoming presidents.
Since being elected into office in May 2017, Macron’s approval ratings have nosedived from around 60 percent to around 30 percent.
He has come under pressure after the celebrity environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, quit live on air without warning Macron first. That was shortly followed by the sports minister Laura Flessel, resigning as sports minister for “personal reasons”.
Dubbed as the “president of the rich”, Macron’s reform agenda has fallen foul of critics who say his policies favour the well-off and describe his manner as arrogant and aloof.
Interviewed on BFM-TV in early September, Collomb said of Macron’s drop in ratings: “In Greek, there is a word called hubris. It’s the curse of the gods when, at some point, you become too sure of yourself.”
At a separate lunch with journalists later that month, Collomb said, “If everyone bows down to him, he will eventually isolate himself.”
Wright said there are “red flags” within Macron’s cabinet and that some ministers are growing “weary” of Macron’s grip on power. She added that this is apparent in the way he has centralised power and ministers say they are not as free to speak as they would like.
However, with no real alternative to leadership, it appears the president is here to stay for now.
Macron was elected on a very ambitious mandate and a lot of his promises for change will not have an immediate effect.
“The issue of leadership style will become more prominent”, said Wright. However, she added that he is likely to give into ministerial demands for greater autonomy as “a united cabinet will be more important than being in control of everything”.