PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron named new foreign and defence ministers on Friday as part of a government re-shuffle intended to create fresh momentum ahead of parliamentary elections next month.
France’s ambassador to London, Catherine Colonna, was picked as foreign minister, making her only the second woman to hold the prestigious job.
Sebastien Lecornu, former minister for overseas territories, was promoted to the defence ministry, Macron’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler announced at the presidential palace.
The changes amid Russia’s assault against Ukraine are likely to raise eyebrows in France, though Macron has taken the lead role in managing France’s response to the invasion.
The newly re-elected head of state is eyeing a parliamentary majority in polls next month in order to push through his domestic reform agenda which includes welfare and pension changes, as well as tax cuts.
The biggest surprise came in the education ministry where renowned academic Pap Ndiaye, an expert on colonialism and race relations, will take over from right-winger Jean-Michel Blanquer.
Macron, 44, on Monday named former labour minister Elizabeth Borne as prime minister, the first time a woman has held France’s top cabinet job in more than 30 years and only the second time in history.
Opposition figures had accused Macron of deliberately delaying naming a new government, almost four weeks since his re-election on April 24, when he defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The issue has been the subject of feverish media coverage in recent days, overshadowing the parliamentary campaign and drowning out opposition parties.
“French people have a lot of worries about the future, about the cost of electricity, the cost of fuel, of housing and of food which is going up,” right-wing MP Julien Aubert from the Republicans party told Franceinfo radio on Friday.
Macron’s centrist LREM party, allied with the centrist MoDem and centre-right Horizons among others, is expected to face its biggest challenge from a rejuvenated left-wing next month.