Why 35% of French people cannot name their own prime minister

SEVEN months after their prime minister was appointed in May 2017, fully 35% of the French could not name him accurately in a poll. Next to the hyper-visible President Emmanuel Macron, who hosts global business chiefs at the Palace of Versailles one week and is on the phone every other to Donald Trump, the tall, bearded Edouard Philippe cuts a discreet figure. So much so that he is variously identified in polls as Philippe Edouard, Gérard Philipe (a former actor), or Louis Philippe (a former king). Confusion about Mr Philippe’s name, though, prompts a bigger question: what is the point of him?

France is unusual in having a two-headed executive, devised by Charles de Gaulle in 1958 when the previous parliamentary system had proved unstable. The Fifth Republic’s constitution established a particularly strong executive presidency. But according to precedent the president is meant to stick to big visions and foreign affairs, leaving the prime minister, whom he names, to deal with the grind of…

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