PARIS — Not yet in power, France’s new president is already showing that he has one of the necessary skills for the job: the ability to keep secrets.
Even some of Emmanuel Macron’s most trusted collaborators say they don’t know whom he will name as prime minister — the most important first appointment after he takes power on Sunday.
Speculation surrounds a half-dozen names, some fairly well-known, others less so, but the fact that one in particular hasn’t leaked from the president-elect’s inner circle suggests either that Macron still hasn’t made up his mind or that his entourage is particularly disciplined and loyal.
A turning point in Macron’s run for the presidency also offered a clue that the 39-year-old keeps his own counsel and his aides on a tight leash when necessary. In a meeting with members of his campaign team on Feb. 22, Macron told them that he was about to get an endorsement from Francois Bayrou, a centrist former three-time presidential candidate whose support helped boost Macron’s campaign.
Macron ordered his team to keep the news under wraps until Bayrou himself went public with it later that afternoon.
“Don’t tweet or SMS anyone, right, kids?” Macron said, staring around the room and pointing his right index finger — a scene captured in a fly-on-the-wall documentary aired this week by broadcaster TF1.
Among those who say they are in the dark about Macron’s choice of prime minister is Richard Ferrand, a prominent figure of the Macron universe. As secretary-general of the president-elect’s Republic on the Move party, Ferrand is working to secure the parliamentary majority in June legislative elections that Macron will need to govern effectively.
“Frankly, I don’t know,” Ferrand said Friday on BFM television. “And that’s good, because if I knew I’d be obliged to lie to you.”
In choosing a prime minister, Macron will want both someone he can work with on his reform program and someone who can help him secure the majority he needs in parliament to push change through. The centrist Macron is trying to rally lawmakers from both the left and right to his cause.
Picking a prime minister from the right of French politics could help swing like-minded legislators behind Macron, and siphon away votes from his party’s rivals in the June 11 and 18 legislative elections.
As well as putting his government in place, Macron’s agenda is rapidly filling with other commitments. He’ll meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, his first full day in office, the German government said Friday.