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Macron decides to keep French PM in role despite pension unrest, riots

file photo: borne and macron arrive at a dinner held at the louvre in paris
French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne speak together as they arrive to a dinner held at the Louvre in Paris, France, July 14, 2023. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to keep Elisabeth Borne in her role as prime minister, an official at the president’s office said on Monday, rejecting pressure to give a new direction to his government after a tumultuous few months.

Months of unrest and strikes over Macron’s pension reform in the spring as well as five days of riots and looting in French cities earlier this month had fuelled calls among political opponents and some government insiders for a reshuffle.

But with no clear candidate to replace Borne, a former technocrat who critics say lacks charisma but supporters say has delivered on many of Macron’s campaign pledges already, the French leader decided to keep her at the helm of cabinet.

“To ensure stability and in-depth work, the President has decided to maintain the Prime Minister,” Macron’s office said.

Macron will also provide clues “by the end of the week”  about his plans for the coming months, the official said.

French media said Borne was working on “adjustments”, a sign there could be only a technical reshuffle on the cards that would not see changes at top portfolios such as the finance ministry.

Rumours of a possible government reshuffle had swirled following the sudden bout of riots, triggered by the killing by police of a teenager, in one of the most serious challenge to Macron’s leadership to date.

But Macron said last week he needed more time to draft policy in response to the riots, which he said required more than “knee-jerk” reactions.

For that reason, he said last week he had decided against giving an interview on July 14, the deadline he had given himself in April to relaunch his second term and heal tensions after the pension crisis.

A source close to Macron told Reuters changing prime minister now made no sense, since Macron’s minority government had not managed to strike a deal with potential right-wing conservative allies in parliament.

Macron was keeping the option of offering the conservative Les Republicains the prime minister seat as a prize for a formal coalition, the source added.

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