Lecointre, a career military officer who led the EU military training mission in Mali, was named the new military chief hours after de Villiers’ unprecedented resignation.
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner confirmed the appointment Wednesday afternoon, saying Lecointre was recognised as “a hero" in the army. His appointment, however, won't be officially confirmed until a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Lecointre, 55, served in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars in the 1990s and recently led the mission in Mali to help fight Islamic extremists.
His appointment followed the departure of France’s most senior soldier, who handed in his resignation after an unusually public row with Marcon over defence budget cuts.
The latest shakeup in the military is widely viewed as an early test of France’s newly elected, 39-year-old president and his tough presidential style.
‘I am the boss’
The public row between Macron and de Villiers erupted last week after Macron announced a €850 million cut to the defence budget in an effort to meet the EU’s requirement that member states maintain their deficits at 3 percent of GDP.
De Villiers, 61, reportedly complained about the cuts to a parliamentary committee and followed it up with a Facebook post that criticised the measure without naming Macron.
His public remarks -- unusual in France which has a tradition of military chiefs refraining from comments about civilian governments – sparked a rebuke from Macron.
"I am the boss," Macron told the French weekly, Journal du dimanche, over the weekend, adding that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position".
De Villiers said Wednesday that throughout his career, he had believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations".
The row has provoked a debate about whether 39-year-old Macron had humiliated his military chief or whether he had no choice but to exert his authority just two months into his presidency.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)