Minister Delegate in charge of Overseas Territories since the end of July 2023, the MoDem deputy left his post during the ministerial reshuffle of January 11, hoping for his reappointment. But the executive couple decided otherwise: Philippe Vigier is not part of the additional list of members of the government announced Thursday February 8. His time on rue Oudinot was relatively short.
He held on tightly to his seat. So much so that he was accused of “squatter at the expense of the Republic” by Mediapart, in a survey published on January 30. Ultimately, he did not stay at the head of his ministry for long – almost six months. Philippe Vigier, Minister Delegate in charge of Overseas Territories since July 20, 2023, was removed from the government after leaving office during the ministerial reshuffle on January 11. His name does not appear on the government’s additional list, announced by the Élysée on February 8. Marie Guévenoux takes her place on rue Oudinot.
His departure from the Overseas Ministry is not a surprise. Already at the end of December, after the painful vote on the immigration law and the start of rumors of a reshuffle, the media Politico revealed that Philippe Vigier, a trained biologist and former mayor of a village in Center-Val de Loire, was “ready to move” of his ministry, according to a discussion he had with François Bayrou, the head of MoDem. The political newsletter then heard in the corridors that the person concerned was not “not comfortable overseas”. The minister duly denied these remarks.
But the desires elsewhere of the one who took his first steps in government only six months ago were not heard by the head of state and that of the government. The centrist deputy having received no assurance of winning another portfolio, he fought to keep that of Overseas. But, hated by the overseas parliamentarians of the opposition, Philippe Vigier irritated even within the presidential camp. “A certain dissatisfaction is felt on the part of local overseas elected officials, because they do not feel truly represented in Paris”confided a source close to the presidential majority in the Overseas Territories at the beginning of January, pleading for an Ultramarine to take over from the minister.
The investigation of Mediapart published last week has finally sealed its fate. According to the media, Philippe Vigier continued to benefit from a driver, official accommodation and organized private dinners at the ministry even though he was officially no longer a member of the government. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories Gérald Darmanin no longer wanted him.
Promoted to a government for the first time in his political career last year, Philippe Vigier, then a simple deputy for Eure-et-Loir, showed himself determined from the moment he took office. On July 20, on the steps of the Hôtel de Montmorin, he fervently brandished the booklet of the 72 measures of the Interministerial Overseas Committee (CIOM) that his predecessor Jean-François Carenco had presented three days earlier alongside the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and Gérald Darmanin. This CIOM would become his roadmap.
At 66 years old, this personality with a style very different from that of the very technocrat Jean-François Carenco tried to bring politics back to Overseas. Criticized for his lack of legitimacy to occupy the post, the delegate minister nevertheless showed himself more comfortable than his predecessor when it came to debating in Parliament or in the media to defend the government’s overseas policy.
However, the majority of elected overseas parliamentarians, who mainly sit in the oppositions, have always remained very skeptical of this minister, who has sat in the National Assembly since 2007.
Four months after the CIOM, Philippe Vigier wanted to invite all the overseas representatives (deputies, senators, representatives of mayors, heads of regional executives, etc.) to provide a progress update on the implementation of the measures. Its objective then was to expose the virtue of the new Vigier method.
But this one robbed more than one. Even before the meeting, scheduled for two days at the end of November, several regional and community presidents had signed a letter regretting the overly “infantilizing” of the minister, who had not planned to discuss the statutory evolution of Overseas Territories, even though it was a strong request from the territories.
Result: if some guests welcomed the progress of the measures, some left completely sullen. The president of the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique, Serge Letchimy, completely boycotted the meeting. His colleague from Guyana, Gabriel Serville, and the deputy Jean-Victor Castor, left the ministry in anger. And no one really focused on the 72 CIOM measures, revealing a certain gap between the minister’s action and the expectations of the different territories.
Philippe Vigier has also at times been able to directly upset the overseas population, particularly in Guadeloupe, when he advised residents to “heat water” to avoid getting sick after Hurricane Tammy hit at the end of October.
If he was able to visit each overseas territory at least once (except Wallis and Futuna) and made it possible to move forward on some issues – launch of an international initiative against sargassum, creation of a hub West Indies, progress on the future memorial in homage to the victims of slavery… -, it is only the management of the water crisis in Mayotte that will have marked Philippe Vigier’s record.
In four months, the delegate minister visited the 101st French department four times, hit by a historic drought. For months, the population has been cruelly lacking in drinking water. For his first trip at the beginning of September, Philippe Vigier arrived with a budget of 2 million euros for a water treatment station. In mid-September, he announced the sending of a first boat containing 600,000 liters of water to Mayotte, when restrictions had just tightened. Later, the government indicated that it would cover all the water bills of the Mahorais. The supply of bottles was then accelerated, then generalized to the entire population. Since then, with the arrival of the rains and the filling of the hill reservoirs, the water towers will gradually lighten up within a few weeks. The distribution of bottled water should stop in March.
On other subjects, however, the minister did not make himself heard much: on the institutional development of Overseas Territories, he always postponed the question until later, leaving it to the president to manage this question; on the Caledonian discussions, it is his tutor from the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, who is in charge (he has never said anything on the subject); on the controversial judges’ tower for the Olympic surfing events in Teahupo’o, Philippe Vigier remained silent; ditto on the resurgence of violence in Mayotte, the lack of teachers in Guyana or the low educational level of overseas students…
Unlike his predecessors Sébastien Lecornu (Minister of Overseas from July 2020 to May 2022, subsequently became Minister of the Armed Forces) and Yaël Braun-Pivet (ephemeral Minister of Overseas from May 20 to June 25, 2022, elected president of the National Assembly), Philippe Vigier’s passage on rue Oudinot did not serve as a political springboard towards another position. He who said to himself “ready to move” of the Ministry of Overseas has seen his wish granted: he will now be back in his seat as a deputy…