France's Macron faces bigger reshuffle after key ally quits

Published 22.06.2017 01:28

French President Emmanuel Macron is shaking up his five-week-old government and will have to make more changes than anticipated after the minister who was leading Macron's crusade to purify politics was forced to quit over corruption allegations.

Justice Minister Francois Bayrou's departure is the latest drama to hit Macron's presidency. He's one of four ministers who have announced this week they're leaving the government.

Bayrou announced his resignation yesterday following allegations of misuse of European Parliament funds by his centrist Modem party. Even more embarrassing for Macron is that Bayrou was in the process of promoting a law to clean up politics, a key policy promise of the recently elected president.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said on radio Europe 1 that Bayrou's decision was a "personal choice" and that he "wants to be able to defend himself in that case." But Castaner also acknowledged that "it simplifies the situation" because the government will no longer be dogged by questions and criticism of Bayrou and his party.

Bayrou's departure means Modem has lost all three Cabinet posts it had in Macron's government, following the departure of defense chief Sylvie Goulard and Marielle de Sarnez, the minister for European affairs.

Richard Ferrand has also stood down as minister for territorial cohesion to lead the group of lawmakers elected under the banner of Macron's party at the National Assembly. He's also facing an investigation for alleged conflict of interest related to his past business practices. He denies doing anything illegal, but acknowledges some old habits are no longer accepted by the public.

The reshuffle was initially intended to be minor following Sunday's big win for Macron's Republic on the Move! party in legislative elections. European affairs minister De Sarnez pulled out of the government just days after winning a seat in Sunday's elections. She will now preside over Modem party lawmakers in the lower house, French media reported. Like the ex-defense minister, Bayrou and de Sarnez could become subjects of investigations over the use of parliamentary assistants who were improperly paid.

Macron, elected as president on May 7, has promised to clean up the French political scene, which has been peppered with corruption.

Restoring the reputation of the French political class has become an increasingly important topic in France after Francois Fillon's presidential bid very publicly collapsed on reports that he paid his wife for work as a parliamentary aide that she allegedly did not perform. The new law that Bayrou was drafting would have banned the practice of hiring family members, among other measures.

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