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Macron orders ministers into line ahead of electoral battle

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron has a message for ministers considering a run in upcoming local elections: Make up your mind — or leave.

The French president is trying to put an end to weeks of confusing signals from high-profile government figures about their involvement in the municipal elections in March, when his party will try to seize several major cities.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has reportedly been mulling a potential bid for mayor in the northern city of Le Havre, and is expected to announce his final decision on Friday, according to newspaper Le Parisien. Philippes lack of clarity around his ambitions in Le Havre has raised eyebrows as he battles with trade unions over a controversial pension reform.

More generally, the campaign has turned into bit of a human resources headache for Macron, with a dozen ministers involved in sensitive dossiers running or expected to run in the elections.

While French law doesnt forbid holding both a ministerial post and a local mandate, Philippe himself clarified the rule for his government: Ministers elected as mayors will have to quit — although they can hold onto city councillor seats.

Earlier this week, three ministers dropped their bids, two of them at Macrons request.

On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume and Secretary of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, in charge of trade and tourism, withdrew from the race in the southern town of Biarritz.

They did so “at the request of the President of the Republic, in an approach of clarity and unity,” an Elysée spokesperson said.

Ongoing negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy and Brexit, both “important for French agriculture,” were cited as key reasons behind Macrons request.

Internal feuds

The bizarre situation in Biarritz — where Guillaume and Lemoyne were running on rival lists — was also one of several recent examples of lack of internal discipline in Macrons La République En Marche (LREM) party, the most high-profile one being the battle for Paris city hall.

Star mathematician-turned-LREM lawmaker Cédric Villani last week refused to stand aside in favor of Benjamin Griveaux, who is the partys official candidate in the capital, despite Macrons personal intervention. He was later excluded from the party.

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