French Mayor of the 7th district of Paris, Rachida Dati, (L), participates in a march EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA


Macron installs ‘pugnacious’ ex-Sarkozy minister Dati


French President Emmanuel Macron poached former Nicolas Sarkozy minister Rachida Dati to join his new Government, a surprise move that many feel will further weaken his Conservative opponents and is a signal his desire to bring political experience to his Cabinet.

Dati, a vocal former justice minister well recognised in France, was named culture minister in Macron’s new Government, which also confirmed heavyweights Bruno Le Maire and Gerald Darmanin for the finance and interior portfolios.

“It’s a huge political coup, no one had seen that coming,” former Sarkozy culture minister Roselyne Bachelot said on BFM TV. “She’s hugely pugnacious, she’s popular and she’s popular with common people.”

By poaching a “big name” from Conservative ranks, Macron is thought to be moving away from a previous tendency to put technocrats in cabinet roles and shows the President is gearing up for political battle ahead of European elections 2024.

His Government now also leans even more clearly to the Right, observers say, in another sign he wants to take on a resurgent hard-right in the elections just five months away.

The first batch of ministers announced by his office on January 11, which also included MEP Stephane Sejourne as foreign minister, comes after Macron named rising political star Gabriel Attal as his Prime Minister earlier this week.

Dati, 58, who comes from humble North African origins, was until now the head of the Conservative opposition at Paris City Hall, meaning Macron also took out one potential rival to conquer the Paris mayorship, currently in Socialist hands.