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Macron's cosmetic changes portend troubling times ahead

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after being re-elected as president, following the results in the second round of the 2022 French presidential election, during his victory rally at the Champ de Mars in Paris, France, April 24, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron has reshuffled his cabinet in the hope that it will unjinx a second term that kicked off with an unfortunate failed effort to win a parliamentary majority.

Opponents, however, do not expect the little changes in his cabinet to turn Macron's fortunes around.

The all-important foreign, finance and defense ministers all remained in place, prompting all sides of the French political spectrum to dismiss the changes as superficial which failed to represent a meaningful difference from before.

"Those who failed are all reappointed," far-right leader Marine Le Pen said.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, hard-left France Unbowed MP Clementine Autain also downplayed the cabinet reshuffle, describing the changes as "a little game of musical chairs".

Macron, who is notorious for his "ideological vagueness", is now facing a slew of problems in his second term ranging from mass discontent at home linked to the cost of living crisis and undelivered pension reforms to international disputes exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict.

He is considered by the French public to be out of touch with reality and largely absent from the domestic political scene with his focus on the international stage, namely, the Ukraine conflict.

However, Russia's operation in Ukraine ended up reinforcing his arrogant and distant image, rather than showing the public he was fighting France's corner as he had hoped.

Macron’s first term problems had been the COVID -19 pandemic, the Yellow Vests protests and the Ukraine crisis, which has now evolved into a full-scale conflict that some warn might be the intro to WW III.

“Cost of living is Macron’s single biggest problem; it’s very clearly the issue on which voters ranked him second or third in the first round,” said Paul Smith, a professor of French politics at Nottingham University.

Like the cost of living, pension reform is “really fundamental”, Smith said.

"If Macron is not careful," he warned, “a Gilets Jaunes [Yellow Vests] Part II is on the cards”.

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