Macron cleans up cabinet

Four French ministers left the cabinet within the space of 24 hours at the start of the week. Three of them are accused of using EU Parliament money to pay assistants who worked part of their time for their party, while Macron's close confidant Richard Ferrand of LREM faces allegations of cronyism. The president announced their replacements on Wednesday. This is not the time for rash judgements or moralising, the press admonishes.

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Ouest France (FR) /

Where's the presumption of innocence?

Suspicions should not lead to rash condemnations, Ouest France writes:

“Is it acceptable for a minister to be forced to resign on the basis of suspicion alone? ... Saying yes would mean that one newspaper article outweighs the presumption of innocence. And that the circumstances of the departure of François Bayrou, Sylvie Goulard, Richard Ferrand and Marielle de Sarnez are the new jurisprudence. And if that is the case, anyone who comes under suspicion must go, even if they haven't been put under investigation - let alone convicted. In parliament as elsewhere - and especially within the Front National - some people should take a good look in the mirror.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Media harming democracy

The debate in French media about the virtue of politicians has taken on detrimental proportions, historian Maxime Tandonnet criticises in Le Figaro:

“One day the French media are intoxicated with optimism, youth, euphoria, enthusiasm, and the cult of the personality, the very next they're full of suspicions, accusations, lynch law, attacks and the search for scapegoats. ... In neutralising real politics, the media's obsession [with virtue] puts the country at the mercy of laissez-faire, indecision and chaos. Basically what's in question is the authority of politics, universal suffrage, and thus democracy itself. That can only amplify the public's animosity vis-à-vis politics, which is in turn expressed by extremely low voter turnouts.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A chance for the president

The resignation of four ministers will have consequences for French President Macron, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung believes:

“His brilliant start has suddenly been tarnished. He was elected on the strength of his promise to renew French politics. Now it turns out that the old customs and traditions haven't been eliminated after all. They are sitting at the cabinet table and in parliament with the long-serving politicians who have joined Macron. But this first government crisis could also be a chance for Macron - provided he learns his lesson from it: the candidates for high office need to be checked more thoroughly. The 'moralisation' imposed itself of its own accord in the cases of the four ministers, and above all in the case of Fillon, before a corresponding law was passed. This is good, because morals are not something that can be decreed by the state.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Draconian measures are justified

When it comes to corruption it's more dangerous to do too little than to do too much, La Vanguardia comments:

“There are those who argue that this practice may be unjust for politicians who haven't committed any crime. And that risk exists, it's true. But it's also true that the corruption pervading certain democracies poses a threat to their vigour and even their future. Therefore the risk of not being thorough enough is greater than the risk of overreacting. It's better for democratic societies to be based on a construct in which personal freedoms - and therefore personal guarantees - are the top priority of the law. But if that construct is under threat, measures must be taken to minimise the risks, particularly when that threat is corruption, because corruption gnaws away at the foundations just like termites do.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Not the way to restore trust

Both Macron's close confidante Ferrand and former Minister for European Affairs Marielle de Sarnez are being touted as the next leaders of their parties in parliament. Le Monde is shocked:

“Is behaviour that intolerable on the part of a minister suddenly acceptable for the leader of a party in parliament? This way of making the National Assembly a recycling centre for ministers at odds with public virtue is simply shocking. The efforts to restore trust should not be limited to the Council of Ministers.”

e-vestnik (BG) /

Bulgaria should follow France's example

The four ministers that resigned would have had nothing to fear in Bulgaria, writes Paris-based author and former politician Dimo Raikov on e-vestnik about his home country:

“In Bulgaria no one reacts to the official announcement by the EU Parliament that Bulgarian MEPs failed to submit reports on the use of parliamentary funding for staff. No mention is made of the shady conduct of our MEPs. While France is rocked by scandals and investigations are already underway in other EU member states too, people in Bulgaria act as if nothing had happened.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

A wise cabinet reshuffle

The resignations are not all bad news for Macron, Il Sole 24 Ore suspects:

“Ferrand's decision on the one hand allows Macron to elevate one of his most loyal supporters to a key position [he is said to be the next leader of his party in parliament] and on the other averts potential dangers for his government, since the public prosecutors had also placed Ferrand under investigation. … Goulard's decision, which was no doubt 'prompted' by Macron, is also related to an investigation. … Macron's message is clear: the government must be unimpeachable. If the resulting resignations free up a couple of posts for leading conservative politicians, then all the better. Particularly in view of the fractured right, which will form two separate wings in parliament: an opposition wing and one that supports the president's majority.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A consistent step

The Süddeutsche Zeitung points out that Macron won the election above all thanks to his promises to rid French politics of the greed and corruption that have sullied its reputation:

“So it was definitely time for the minister facing allegations of corruption, Richard Ferrand, to leave the cabinet. But particularly impressive is the decision of Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard, of Macron's ally the Modem Party, to voluntarily give up her post. Although so far the investigations into illegal party financing haven't targeted Goulard herself but only her party, she has resigned to avoid harming the reputation of the ministry and the army. Chapeau!”