French President Emmanuel Macron lost his second Cabinet member in a week on Tuesday, after Sports Minister Laura Flessel announced she was stepping down for personal reasons.
Flessel, a former Olympic champion in fencing, followed former Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot in quitting the French government. According to opinion polls, the two ranked among Macron’s most popular ministers, all while the president’s own popularity continues to hit new lows.
However, Flessel’s resignation didn’t appear to be in quite as much bad blood as that of Hulot, as she said she would remain “a loyal team member with the president and prime minister.”
Hulot, by contrast, announced during a live radio interview last week that he was resigning out of despair over the government’s hollow environmental commitments. The remarks reportedly enraged the French president, who famously pledged to “make our planet great again” after US President Donald Trump quit the Paris climate deal.
Flessel announced her resignation just hours before Macron was slated to unveil his Cabinet reshuffle.
Later on Tuesday Macron’s office announced that Flessel would be replaced by Roxana Maracineanu, a silver medalist in backstroke at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and a world champion in 1998.
The environment post, meanwhile, was handed to parliament speaker Francois de Rugy, a former Green party lawmaker who jumped ship to Macron’s Republic on the Move party last year. Known for his pragmatic approach to politics, de Rugy earned Macron’s trust by backing the president’s decision to delay the phasing out of nuclear energy in France.
The French president hopes that a rejig will give his reform drive such much needed new energy. He returned from his summer holiday this week reeling from a bodyguard scandal and slower recorded growth than had been initially projected.
An opinion poll published on Tuesday found that just 31 percent of respondents were happy with Macron’s performance during the first 16 months of his presidency, while support had eroded across all age groups on both the left and the right.
It means Macron’s approval rating is lower than that of his predecessor Francois Hollande at the same stage of his presidency. The Socialist leader went on to grow so unpopular that he became the first president of the Fifth Republic not seek re-election.
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