Newly-inaugurated French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed a center-right lawmaker and mayor as the country’s prime minister, handing a top position in his administration to a moderate from France’s conservative Republican Party.
Macron named Edouard Philippe, the 46-year-old mayor of Le Havre in northern France and a parliamentarian, to the job on Monday.
Philippe was a close associate of former prime minister Alain Juppe and used to support the presidential campaign of Francois Fillon until the candidate was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal last year.
The appointment comes on the first day of Macron’s presidency after inauguration as the centrist aims to broaden his political appeal and weaken his opponents before legislative elections in June.
It is the first time in modern French political history that a president has appointed a prime minister from outside his party without being forced to by a defeat in parliamentary elections.
Describing the move as a “tough” choice, one of Macron’s close aides said on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony a day earlier, “In government, you will see that a lot of the inner circle will drop out.”
Christophe Castaner, Macron’s campaign spokesman, added that “I was among the first to say ‘why not a prime minister from the right’? That’s in the nature of what we are trying to do… It’s tough… especially for the longest-serving ones.”
In his first speech as president on Sunday, Macron promised to restore France’s shattered self-confidence and help rebuild the flagging European Union.
He said he intended to convince people that France was “at the dawn of an extraordinary renaissance” and that the world and Europe “need France now more than ever.”
Macron, 39, who is a former investment banker and economy minister, won the presidential election with 66 percent of the votes on May 7.
Macron is France’s youngest president ever and the first to be born after October 5, 1958, when President Charles de Gaulle set up the Fifth Republic from the ashes of the Fourth Republic, replacing a factional parliamentary government with a centralized one.