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France’s Macron reshuffles cabinet amid scandals, plummeting popularity

PARIS: A year and a half into his first term, French President Emmanuel Macron is looking for a new start.
He reshuffled his cabinet Tuesday and made a rare televised address to assure France that all is well after aábruising summeráwhich has seen his popularity rating plummet amid protests, scandals andágaffes.
“Europe is tipping almost everywhere toward extremes and again is giving way to nationalism, we need all our energy to succeed. I have confidence in us,” Macron said.
His approval ratingáfell to 29%áin September, an all time low, after a summer of protests over proposed economic reforms and scandals involving his security aide Alexandre Benalla.
Benalla wasáfilmed wearing a police helmet and beating May Day protestersáin July, after which he was dismissed. Last month, a selfie of himáposing with a gun during Macron’s campaignáled to another investigation and questions over the President’s judgment.
Macron has also been hit by resignations of key cabinet officials, especially environment minister Nicolas Hulot, whoáquit the government during a live radio interviewáin frustration at Macron’s failure to tackle climate change.
“I don’t want to give the illusion that my position within the government suggested that we are answering these problems properly, so I’m leaving the government,” Hulot said. “I no longer want to lie.”
Interior minister Gerard Collomb also announced his intention to leave the cabinet and return to his old job as mayor of Lyon. He was replaced by close Macron ally Christophe Castaner in the reshuffle Tuesday.
Even as he has courted international public opinion — delivering aápointed rebuke to US President Donald Trump’s isolationist messageáat the United Nations — Macron has faced growing criticism at home for pursuing unpopular policies that many perceive as benefiting France’s richest and cutting into the country’s treasured social protections.
Public services ground to a halt in July amid mass protests and strikes against Macron’s proposed economic reforms, which would slash public spending and see over 120,000 people laid off.

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