Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS
Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — French Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard announced her resignation on Tuesday over a fake jobs scandal that has hit her small centrist MoDem party, which has allied itself with President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

Goulard, who was a member of the European Parliament from 2009 to May this year, said she could not remain in the government while facing a possible investigation of alleged misuse of expenses at that parliament. Her resignation comes as Macron carried out a minor shuffle of his government following parliamentary elections on Sunday, which handed him and his MoDem allies a commanding majority.

Goulard was named to the defence job only a month ago following Macron’s election to the presidency, but she said the possibility of an investigation made it difficult for her to stay in the post given Macron’s pledge to clean up politics.

"The president is committed to restoring confidence in public office, reforming France and re-launching Europe," she said in a statement. "This reform agenda must take precedence over any personal considerations. This is why I have asked the president, with the agreement of the prime minister, to leave the government."

Macron accepted her resignation and said he "respected" Goulard’s choice.

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

MoDem’s leader François Bayrou was a key backer of Macron’s one-year-old Republic on the Move (REM) movement during the presidential campaign, and his support was crucial in winning centrist votes for the new president.

Bayrou, who Macron named justice minister as a reward for his support, last week dismissed the claims, saying there had "never been" fake jobs among his party’s European Parliament staff. On Tuesday, the MoDem leader said he respected Goulard’s "personal" decision.

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.

Macron has already used the post-election period to fine-tune his government and remove a scandal-hit minister. On Monday, the president asked close ally Richard Ferrand, who is embroiled in a conflict-of-interest scandal, to leave the cabinet and instead seek the leadership of REM’s parliamentary group.

In accusations also leveled by the Canard Enchainé, Ferrand is said to have favoured his wife in a lucrative property deal with a public health insurance fund when he headed the company. Ferrand, who was a minister with responsibility for territorial cohesion, has accepted making the switch.

Macron is expected to name his new cabinet on Wednesday.

AFP

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