Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a new prime minister in the coming days as he turns his focus to legislative elections in June after his defeat of Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff on Sunday.
The current prime minister, Jean Castex, has said he will resign along with the government, allowing the Macron to choose a fresh face and team for his second five-year terms in office.
Analysts suggest Macron may name Élisabeth Borne, the minister for work, as prime minister, only the second woman in France to hold the post. Others being touted for the Hôtel de Matignon – Paris’s equivalent of No 10 – include the finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, the interior minister Gérald Darmanin, or the agriculture minister, Julien Denormandie.
Even before it was announced that Macron had been re-elected president on Sunday, attention had turned to the next electoral cycle. He will need his party, La République en Marche!, and its allies to achieve a majority to avoid the formation of a hostile government that could paralyse his programme.
The task of appointing a new prime minister and cabinet is made particularly tricky as Macron will be looking to appeal to radical-left voters who backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the presidential election while avoiding alienating supporters of Le Pen. Macron is facing demands to show he is president of “all the French” after winning 58.54% – compared with Le Pen’s 41.46% – of the vote in Sunday’s second-round vote.
His victory will be officially confirmed by the country’s Constitutional Council on Wednesday. Castex could have been asked to stay on as prime minister, but told French radio earlier this month that France would be looking for a “new driving force” if Macron won.
Mélenchon, who narrowly missed beating Le Pen in the first round of the presidential election, has called for voters to make him prime minister via the legislative elections on 12 and 19 June. Members of Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise (LFI), have been holding “negotiations” with their counterparts at the Ecology-Green and the Communist parties with a view to joining forces in constituencies where a leftwing alliance could win enough seats to give them control of Assemblée Nationale, the lower house.
Three political forces have emerged in France after the decline of the traditional centre-right Les Républicains and the centre-left Socialist Party: a pro-European centre represented by Macron’s LREM flanked by a radical left represented by Mélenchon and Le Pen’s far right. Voters who reject Macron, but find the extremes hard to stomach – including the Greens – will have to choose a camp.
Manon Aubry, a LFI MEP, said: “We will create a union around a programme and a project. There are now three blocs in the country, the extreme right, the liberal right and our bloc.
“We have united lots of people behind us in this election and we can do more to give those who feel orphaned a place in our family. That’s what the negotiations are about.”
On Sunday night, Macron’s representatives and members of his cabinet all faced the same question: who will be prime minister? All gave the same answer: It’s for the president to decide.
Possible prime ministers
Élisabeth Borne, 61
The employment minister, who was previously at the ecology and transport ministries, is a technocrat and former head of the Paris region’s public transport system (RATP). She has served under the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, and has been credited with a firm grasp on most subjects. Borne would be the second female French PM after Édith Cresson, who served for less than a year in office under President François Mitterrand between May 1991 and April 1992.
Bruno Le Maire, 53
The finance minister and former European affairs minister has the advantage of being on the right of centre and a traditionalist. He has been praised for his economic handling of Macron’s “whatever it costs” approach to the Covid crisis. Considered a loyal convert to Macronism despite having served in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government.
Richard Ferrand, 59
A former member of the Socialist party and a former journalist, he was general secretary of Macron’s new party and was named minister of territorial cohesion after Macron became president in 2017, but resigned after a month to become head of the LREM group in the Assemblée Nationale, a post he has held since.
Julien Denormandie, 41
The agriculture minister is often said to be a slightly younger Macron, albeit only by three years. Denormandie served as deputy chief of staff to Macron at the finance ministry when Socialist François Hollande was president. He helped set up La République en Marche! in 2016.
Gérald Darmanin, 39
The interior ministry is considered rightwing and is often wrongly accused of calling Le Pen “soft” on immigration, which was a sarcastic comment made during a debate. A divisive figure for the left and even among his colleagues, but ambitious.
Édouard Philippe, 51
The mayor of Le Havre served as Macron’s first prime minister between 2017 and 2020. A former Socialist then member of the centre-right UMP, Philippe had to handle the gilets jaunes movement, strikes and protests over Macron’s controversial pension changes and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. He resigned after the 2020 municipal elections and began his own political movement, Horizons, that many believe will be his springboard to a centre-right presidential bid in 2027.
Christine Lagarde, 66
The head of the European Central Bank and former director general of the International Monetary Fund, she was Sarkozy’s economy minister. Lagarde has the experience and the competence but would be rejected as too economically liberal and globalist by the left, so would be an extremely divisive choice.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 70
The LFI leader has demanded French voters make him PM in the forthcoming legislative elections after he narrowly missed out on the second-round presidential runoff by 420,000 votes. Detests Macron and would do all to stymie his programme. Not happening now and will only happen if he forces Macron’s hand by winning a parliamentary majority in June.