Thursday 21 September 2017

Two French ministers step down amid investigations

Sylvie Goulard is stepping down amid an investigation into her party's use of European Parliament aides (Francois Mori/AP)
Sylvie Goulard is stepping down amid an investigation into her party's use of European Parliament aides (Francois Mori/AP)

Two French government ministers, including the new defence chief, have announced they are stepping down as President Emmanuel Macron reshuffles the cabinet and works to fulfil a campaign pledge to put more ethics into politics.

Defence minister Sylvie Goulard, the most prominent woman in the cabinet Mr Macron named just over a month ago, suggested in a statement she decided to quit the government to avoid hurting Mr Macron's efforts to clean up corruption.

Ms Goulard is a member of the centrist Modem party, allied with Mr Macron's Republic on the Move! party.

Modem is under investigation for allegedly having used aides receiving European Parliament salaries to perform work for the party.

Ms 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 Modem.

As justice minister, Mr 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, is also caught up in the probe over European Parliament aides.

Ms Sarnez, who was elected to the French National Assembly on Sunday, did not 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 on Tuesday he was leaving the government to lead the group of politicians elected under the banner of Mr 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 Mr Macron.

Mr 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.

Mr Macron is reorganising the cabinet after his party won a parliamentary majority on Sunday.

The new government is to be announced by Wednesday afternoon.

AP

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