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Emmanuel Macron sees third French cabinet minister resign in weeks

‘Very few of us can still talk to Macron,’ former ally says 

Zamira Rahim
Wednesday 03 October 2018 22:27 BST
Gerard Collomb’s resignation was initially rejected
Gerard Collomb’s resignation was initially rejected (Getty)

Emmanuel Macron was forced to accept his interior minister’s resignation late on Tuesday after refusing it less than 24 hours previously.

Gerard Collomb, a veteran politician who was one of the French president’s earliest supporters, previously told the Le Figaro newspaper that he wanted to resign so that he could run for election to be mayor of his hometown of Lyon.

“The French people and the people of Lyon need clarity, so I maintain my offer to resign,” the 71-year-old said, when asked whether he would stay on as interior minister after Mr Macron rejected his resignation on Monday.

The former Socialist Party stalwart had recently been critical of the French president.

“Very few of us can still talk to [Macron],” Mr Collomb was quoted by French media as telling a group of journalists over lunch last month.

“Soon he won’t put up with me anymore. But if we all bow down before him, he’ll end up isolated.”

The politician has also spoken of Mr Macron’s “lack of humility” and dismissed phrases that the president commonly uses, such as “start up nation”, as out of touch with ordinary people.

Only a week ago presidential aides had told the 71-year-old that the timing of his departure would be decided by the French leader alone.

But Mr Macron’s office confirmed on Tuesday that he had accepted the resignation and that French prime minister Edouard Philippe would assume responsibility for the country’s domestic security, until a replacement has been found.

Mr Collomb is the third official to resign from the embattled leader’s cabinet in the last few weeks.

Nicolas Hulot, who had served as Mr Macron’s popular environment minister, quit live on air during a radio appearance.

The high profile former television personality questioned whether the French government was truly committed to environmentalism.

He told France’s Inter Radio that he did not want to give the impression “that we’re up to standard on these issues and so I am deciding to quit the government”.

A week later Laura Flassel, who was serving as sports minister, resigned for personal reasons.

Mr Macron’s approval ratings have plunged to about 30 per cent, from around 60 per cent shortly after he was elected in May 2017 and he has also come under fire for his manner, which some see as aloof and arrogant.

Critics have also described his administration as governing for the wealthy but Mr Macron has previously recovered from low poll numbers.

“I don’t think he is facing a crisis,” said Georgina Wright, a research associate at Chatham House.

“In terms of the resignation, that is not really a surprise. Collomb had already indicated that he was going to resign after the European elections next year.”

“What [Mr Collomb] signalled is that it was a stylistic problem, that Macron is not ready to listen. I think we are going to see a shift in [Mr Macron’s] leadership style and see him being a bit more open and really trying to unite his cabinet going forward.”

“It is quite normal for French presidents in their second and third years to see a drop in poll numbers.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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