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French Defense Minister Quits amid Probe | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard. (AFP)

France’s Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard on Tuesday amid an investigation of her party’s affairs in the European parliament.

She said she did want to be considered in the coming reshuffle because of the investigation overshadowing her party.

Goulard is a member of Modem, the centrist party that allied itself to President Emmanuel Macron’s party in the presidential and legislative elections, but which now faces an inquiry over the way it hired parliamentary assistants in the European parliament.

“Defense is a demanding portfolio. The honor of our armies, that of the men and women who serve and who put their lives in danger, should not be mixed up with controversies that have nothing to do with them,” she said in a statement.

Macron appointed members of several parties among his ministers after he was elected president in May.

His party, Republic on the Move (LREM,) won a big majority in Sunday’s legislative election, and will not need the votes of Modem lawmakers to get legislation through parliament.

Richard Ferrand, a close aide of Macron who was named a minister weeks ago, said on Tuesday his move out of government to a job as leader of his party in parliament was “strategic”, and he dodged questions as to whether he had been sidelined by the French president.

Macron’s right-hand man during the presidential campaign, Ferrand became embroiled in allegations of financial impropriety within days of the centrist’s victory in May.

A preliminary investigation is underway over allegations he benefited improperly from property deals done six years ago by a health insurance fund he managed in the Brittany region.

The affair tainted the early weeks of Macron’s presidency with a whiff of bigger scandals that hit some of his opponents during a bitter presidential campaign.

Under a government reshuffle to be conducted this week after Macron’s party won a majority in parliament at the weekend, Ferrand is to step down as minister for territorial planning.

He will take up instead the leadership of the 308 lawmakers representing Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party in the National Assembly, the 577-seat lower house of parliament.

Ahead of the reshuffle, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe formally resigned on Monday afternoon, a largely symbolic move required after a legislative election. He was immediately renamed to his job and is in charge of forming a government by Wednesday afternoon, the French presidency said in a statement.

Since LREM won an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly, government spokesman Christophe Castaner said on RTL radio the government reshuffle would be “technical and not far-reaching.” He refused to say whether ministers who have come under suspicion of corruption would keep their jobs.

After Macron vigorously campaigned on a promise to renew France’s political landscape, other parties also made efforts to promote new faces.

The National Assembly says new lawmakers’ average age is down from 55 in the previous term to 49 now. The youngest is 23, the oldest 79. The number of female lawmakers is the highest ever in France’s lower house of parliament, reaching 38.7 percent — up from 26.8 percent. Three-quarters are starting their first term at the National Assembly. Some previously had local political experience, but many are newcomers to politics.

Macron’s government is expected to pass its first set of measures during a special parliamentary session starting on June 27 — laws to strengthen security, improve ethics in politics and reform France’s restrictive labor laws.