PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron announced a reshuffling of his cabinet on Tuesday after a series of high-profile resignations and a dramatic drop in his popularity.
Christophe Castaner, who ran Macron’s political party, was named interior minister, a post that oversees national security and is one of the most important in the French government. Macron also tapped new culture and agriculture ministers. Other important positions were left as they were.
The changes were not as extensive as some political analysts had anticipated, leading to questions about whether they would be enough to stabilize Macron’s administration.
“He won with a mix of luck, intuition and audacity — today he has less luck, and he has made some noteworthy mistakes,” said Gilles Finchelstein, the director of the Jean Jaures Foundation, a think tank with ties to the Socialist Party but also to Macron’s campaign.
Recent resignations by key members of Macron’s government damaged his public image and ability to govern.
Nicolas Hulot, his popular environment minister and a former television personality, made a surprise announcement of his departure during a live radio broadcast in late August. Hulot blamed a disconnect between Macron’s words and deeds on climate change, which Macron — in a series of grand, wide-ranging speeches — had sought to make one of his signature policy commitments.
“Have we begun to reduce the use of pesticides? The answer is no,” Hulot said during that broadcast. “Have we started to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? The answer is no. Or to stop the erosion of biodiversity? No.”
Two weeks ago, Gerard Collomb, an early Macron supporter, resigned as interior minister after delivering an even sharper critique. Collomb explained the administration’s falling approval ratings as a result of a “lack of humility.”
“ ‘Hubris,’ it is the curse of the gods,” Collomb said in a September interview, “When, at some point, you become too sure of yourself that you think you will take it all away.”
Macron is often viewed from abroad as the antithesis of President Trump. The 40-year-old photogenic French president is a globalist who has forcefully condemned nationalism and populism.
But at home he is widely seen as a monarchical figure, and he is often caricatured as the second coming of the ancien régime that ruled before the country’s 1789 revolution.
To some extent, this is par for the course: The French typically turn against their presidents, especially by this point in their five-year terms. Macron was elected in May 2017 on a wave of optimism. Nearly 18 months later, tide has turned — as it did for virtually all other recent French presidents.
The difference, however, is that Macron’s once sky-high popularity has now plummeted to a lower level than that of any of his last three predecessors at the same moment in their presidencies. Few have started as high and fallen so far.
According to French polling agency Ifop, Macron’s popularity was at 29 percent in September, down from 40 percent in June and 66 percent when he was elected.
Ifop’s director, Jérôme Fourquet, attributed the summer decline in part to the fallout from the “Benalla Affair.” A member of Macron’s security detail, Alexandre Benalla, was caught on camera while wearing police garb without authorization and beating protesters opposed to labor law revisions. The Elysee Palace was accused of attempting to cover up the offense.
Macron, Fourquet said, had campaigned on “the promise of exemplary republic” and pledged a “rupture” between “the old world of politics and a new world that is transparent and proper,” but the Benalla Affair suggested his presidency was business as usual.
Voters also express concrete concerns. Unemployment has not decreased significantly under Macron and stands at 9.1 percent, according to the latest government figures.
Pro-business policies have helped earn Macron the moniker “president for the rich.”
The impression that he is out of touch with workers was reinforced last month, when he advised a young unemployed gardener all he needed to do was cross the street to find a job in a cafe or a restaurant. “If I crossed the street I’d find you one,” Macron said.
He has unveiled an 8 billion-euro ($9.27 billion) program to combat poverty, but critics say it is not a real priority for the administration.
“After a year, it’s the moment to do something,” Fourquet said. “There’s the perception among many voters, ‘It’s time.’ And he has not done much better than the others.”