image

Emmanuel Macron

Two more Macron allies quit French government amid funding probe

Resignations come a day after the defence minister quit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 3:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 5:30pm

Emmanuel Macron’s justice and European affairs ministers quit, bringing to four the number of members of his cabinet who have left in recent days amid various ethics investigations.

Justice Minister Francois Bayrou, a big-name backer of Macron’s presidential campaign, quit Wednesday. European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez is also leaving.

They follow Regional Development Minister Richard Ferrand, who helped Macron set up his political party, who quit Monday, and Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard, who handed in her resignation Tuesday.

Goulard and de Sarnez are members of the MoDem party headed by Bayrou, which has been caught up in a preliminary probe over whether allowances for members of the European Parliament were used to do work for the MoDem party in France. Ferrand was under a separate preliminary probe over real estate deals by an insurer that he ran.

Bayrou was a key backer of Macron’s movement during the presidential campaign, and his support was crucial in winning centrist votes for the new president.

When Bayrou threw his weight behind Macron’s fledging movement, the future president hailed it as a “turning point” in his campaign.

MoDem won 42 seats in the parliamentary election while Macron’s party crushed its rivals by winning 308 seats, giving their centrist alliance a solid majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said Bayrou’s move was a “personal choice” which “simplifies the situation”.

“He wanted to defend himself in this affair,” Castaner said.

Bayrou has dismissed the allegations, saying there had “never been” fake jobs among his party’s European Parliament staff.

Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation this month into claims in the Canard Enchaine newspaper that MoDem was using European parliamentary funds to pay assistants who were actually based in France.

Earlier this month, Bayrou himself announced plans to ban lawmakers from hiring family members, one of a raft of measures aimed at cleaning up politics after a slew of scandals.

He said at the time that the government aimed to restore confidence in politicians, which was severely rattled by revelations over the alleged fake parliamentary job that conservative MP Francois Fillon gave his wife.

Bayrou ran three times for president, winning more than 18 per cent of the vote in the 2007 election.

Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg