2 French government ministers step down amid investigations


PARIS (AP) — Two French government ministers, including the new defense chief, announced Tuesday that they are stepping down as President Emmanuel Macron reshuffles the Cabinet and works to fulfill a campaign pledge to put more ethics into politics.

Defense minister Sylvie Goulard, the most prominent woman in the Cabinet Macron named a little more than a month ago, suggested in a statement she decided to quit the government to avoid hurting Macron’s efforts to clean up corruption.  

Goulard is a member of the centrist Modem party, allied with Macron’s Republic on the Move! party. The Modem is under investigation for allegedly having used aides receiving European Parliament salaries to perform work for the party.

Goulard said she wants to be free to “show my good faith” in the investigation. Observers say her decision puts more pressure to resign on Justice Minister Francois Bayrou, the founder and leader of the Modem. As justice minister, Bayrou is in charge of promoting a draft law on “restoring trust” in politics.

The minister for European affairs, Marielle de Sarnez, another member of Modem, also is caught up in the probe over European Parliament aides. Sarnez, who was elected to the French National Assembly on Sunday, didn’t rule out quitting the government to become the head of the Modem group in the lower house of parliament.

“Everything is open,” she told the Parisien newspaper. All three deny wrongdoing. Another minister who is facing an unrelated investigation announced Tuesday he was leaving the government to lead the group of lawmakers elected under the banner of Macron’s party at the National Assembly.

Territorial Cohesion Minister Richard Ferrand said on RTL radio that the new position is a “strategic job” and a “sign of confidence” from Macron. Ferrand is under investigation for alleged conflict of interest related to his past business practices. He denies doing anything illegal, but acknowledges some old habits are no longer accepted by the public.

Macron is reorganizing the Cabinet after his party won a parliamentary majority Sunday. The new government is to be announced by Wednesday afternoon.


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