French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb resigns | News | DW | 03.10.2018
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French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb resigns

Gerard Collomb's resignation has been seen as a major blow to French President Emmanuel Macron. The former mayor of Lyon once described his relationship with Macron as similar to father and son.

French President Emmanuel Macron accepted the resignation of his interior minister on Tuesday, after initially refusing to less than 24 hours earlier.

Gerard Collomb, one of Macron's earliest and staunchest backers, had expressed two weeks ago that he intended to step down next year and run for his old job as mayor of the city of Lyon in southeastern France.

But Collomb came under increasing pressure to step down as critics complained that his priorities had already shifted towards the campaign trail, and he made an initial attempt to resign Monday, only to be denied by Macron.

Read more: Emmanuel Macron's cultural policies

Macron's office on Monday said the president had vetoed Collomb's resignation attempt because of "his confidence" in the 71-year-old. But Collomb on Tuesday had said he still intended to quit.

"The French people and the people of Lyon need clarity, so I maintain my offer to resign," Collomb responded when asked if he would stay on as interior minister after Macron initially turned down his resignation.

"Considering the rumors and the pressure, I don't want the fact I will be a candidate somewhere tomorrow to affect the way forward for the interior ministry," he said.

Collomb previously served as Lyon mayor for 16 years until Macron poached him for his Interior Ministry.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who reportedly cancelled a trip to South Africa, will take over Collomb's responsibilities until a replacement is found.

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A soured relationship

Collomb has previously compared his relationship with Macron, 31 years his junior, as being akin to a father and son. He cried during Macron's inauguration in May 2017.

Their relationship is reported to have taken a turn this summer over a scandal surrounding one of Macron's former security aides, Alexandre Benalla.

The former bodyguard was filmed roughing up protesters while wearing a police helmet, in a scandal that gained momentum once it was revealed that senior officials knew about the incident.

Read more: French President Emmanuel Macron's popularity hits record low

During a parliamentary inquiry, Collomb had put the blame on Macron's office, saying that it was their responsibility to report the incident to prosecutors.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen tweeted about the stability of Macron's government following the acceptance of Collomb's resignation.

"Gerard Collomb has resigned again. How long is this sketch going to last?" Le Pen wrote.

Collomb's resignation adds to a series of unfortunate events for Macron, whose approval ratings are at around 34 percent.

It comes after Macron's popular Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, a TV star, quit live on air without giving the president warning.

That was followed by another popular member of the cabinet, former Olympic fencing champion Laura Flessel, who resigned as sports minister for "personal reasons."

law/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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