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In 2017, France had Presidential elections on 23 April and 7 May and will have legislative elections on 11 and 18 June. I was expecting the President would wait with appointing a government until after the legislative elections (and work with the previous government until then), but apparently Mr. Macron has appointed a PM today and is expected to appoint the rest of his government tomorrow.

Seeing that as he will depend on the yet-to-be-elected parliament for his government, why the rush? It seems premature — why not await the result of the legislative elections, so that a government can be formed that is known to have a parliamentary majority? It would seem that with the current approach, he might have to reshuffle the government already in a month (after the legislative elections).

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    A country needs a government to carry out day to day work or even go to war. The president as in this case, not being of the same party as the outgoing president would have some difficulty working with it. Also, by choosing a government, the president shows who are his friends, where they come from and thus indicates for which party or parties he hopes the electors will vote. – Bernard Massé May 16 '17 at 0:26
  • @BernardMassé But he will have to work with parliament in any case, old then new. I just wonder, does this mean he might need to reshuffle everything again after the legislative elections? – gerrit May 16 '17 at 1:01
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    Yes he may have to reshuffle the government when the new National Assembly is elected. He may have to get rid of all his ministers to have a government which will be able to work with the new assembly. – Bernard Massé May 16 '17 at 9:50
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Since 1962, the president traditionally chooses a prime minister pretty quickly after being elected and before the parliamentary elections. The new government has a few real powers (including on police and military matters) and can also start gathering information or nominating key people to prepare its work but obviously cannot start implementing its legislative agenda. There is also quite a bit of posturing involved.

Because the electoral system is designed to favour clear majorities, there is often a minor reshuffling a couple of months later but no need to look for a completely new coalition so that it does not make a big difference. The 2017 election is unusual in that there is a very real chance that the president would end up without any parliamentary majority behind him and his platform.

Note that technically the outgoing prime minister does not have to tender his or her resignation and the lower chamber of parliament can always force a government to step down through a vote of no confidence but both of these became almost untenable with the direct election of the president. Symbolically, he or she is the embodiment of the will of the people and that counts for something.

Interestingly however, the press revealed that Bernard Cazeneuve had planned to do just that (stay in charge until the parliamentary election) should Marine Le Pen win the presidential election. Constitutionally speaking, there is very little she would have been able to do herself without being able to name a government.

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Note: precisely, this June's election is the National Assembly ("Assemblee Nationale"), the lower house of France's bicameral Parliament. Partial elections for the upper chamber, the Senate, will be held in September.

Current and urgent affairs

As Bernard Masse has suggested in the comments, it is to carry current and urgent affairs ("les affaires courantes").

Note that the current legislative session is over until the next election, so the country, at least when it concerns legislative matters, is working at reduced speed.

Though new laws cannot be voted, the President and the government still have powers and duties. As a few examples (you can find more here):

  1. Preparation of laws: as leaders of their respective administration, Minister prepare and propose laws (ultimately accepted or not by the Parliament). Macron plans to changing laws about work very quickly, during the summer, so texts of law need to be prepared right now with the administration.
  2. Managing the budget.
  3. Nomination: the President and Ministers can nominate key members of the administration, with few control from the Parliament (as far as I know). These people can have a lot of power and influence, and can greatly interfere with a Minister's policy.
  4. Public order: the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Interior (Police) are in charge of public order. Police and justice have limited means, so they have to arbitrate about what kind of crimes should be investigated and punished in priority.
  5. Current affairs: similarly, Ministers are in charge to give directions to their administrations. For example, the Minster of Education has to prepare next school year, etc.
  6. War: as the chief of armies, the President has the power to decide to go to war. If memory serves, he can do so without Parliament's approval for 3 months.

Symbolism

Symbols are also important. The French President has quite of lot of powers and his personality is often considered as a factor of his election. For example, experts considered that former President Hollande was elected because he has a softer, quieter personality than his overactive predecessor Sarkozy.

Many people vote for a President hoping he will "change France". What a newly elected President do? Sit down and wait? That would give a very bad impression.

This is especially true in Macron's case as he built his popularity on his youth, his dynamism, and the promise he will renew political habits in France. His party was named "En Marche" (Let's go) before the elections, and now "La Republique en marche" (The Republic in Motion).

What is Macron's first government currently doing?

This article intitled "Philippe government: Projects on the menu of the first "real" week of work" (the government is called Philippe I, from the name of the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. It will be followed by Philippe II if La Republique en Marche wins the elections and Edouard Philippe keeps his position). In short, the Ministers nominated their staff, and the government started working on several projects that were at the heart of Macron's political campaign, namely the reform of the Labor Code and the modernization of political ethics.

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    Also note that it is a "tradition" for the Prime Minister to hand in their resignation (as well as the whole government's) as soon as a new president is elected. – Kerkyra May 23 '17 at 9:20
  • Symbolic +1 for the "En Marche / Let's go" translation, which I love way more than I should! – Kerkyra May 23 '17 at 9:21
  • In most countries, the previous government takes care of “affaire courantes” while coalition negotiations are going on, that in itself is not really an explanation for the difference. – Relaxed May 23 '17 at 16:44

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