French PM Attal’s new cabinet unveiled with key defence, interior posts unchanged

France’s new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, 34, unveiled his government on Thursday with several cabinet members remaining in their posts, including hardline Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and controversial Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti. 

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Under the French system, the president sets general policy while the prime minister is responsible for choosing a cabinet and the day-to-day management of government. Attal is the country’s youngest-ever prime minister and France’s first openly gay premier.

A new French government is officially announced by the secretary general of the Élysée Palace. Alexis Kohler made the announcement from the Jardin d’Hiver (Winter Garden) of the presidential palace.

A number of French political heavyweights retained their posts. In addition to Darmanin as interior minister and Dupond-Moretti as justice minister, Bruno Le Maire retained his post as minister of finance and Sébastien Lecornu remains defence minister.

Stéphane Séjourné, who was once in a civil partnership with Attal, was named France’s new foreign minister, replacing Catherine Colonna

Women were also nominated to key posts, including former justice minister Rachida Dati as the new culture minister. Catherine Vautrin was appointed health and labour minister and Amélie Oudéa-Castéra as education minister.

Dati, who served as justice minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, announced her nomination to her  conservative Les Républicains party ahead of her official nomination as culture minister. 

Other cabinet appointments announced Thursday include:

  • Agriculture minister:  Marc Fesneau
  • Environment minister: Christophe Béchu
  • Women’s minister: Aurore Bergé

Macron chose Attal, a 34-year-old media-savvy loyalist, to breathe new life into his second term as his approval ratings plummet. His nomination sent a signal that change was under way, with Macron attempting to revamp his government following a year of turmoil over controversial pension reform and an immigration law that critics said made too many concessions to the far right. 

Following his appointment on Tuesday, Attal promised to be bold in helping the middle class weather the rising cost of living, signalling a desire by Macron to move beyond his divisive pension reform and improve his party’s chances in European Parliament elections in June. 

With Macron unable to run again, several ministers have publicly aired concerns that far-right leader Marine Le Pen has her best chance yet to win the presidency in 2027. 

The reshuffle is likely to intensify the race among Macron’s camp to succeed him in the next presidential election in 2027, with former prime minister Édouard Philippe, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire all seen as potential candidates – alongside the fast-rising Attal. 

Read moreHow Gabriel Attal became France’s youngest-ever prime minister

Thursday’s appointments kept some experienced politicians in key posts following criticism by some French politicians who raised doubts over Attal’s age and lack of experience. François Bayrou, a key ally of the president who leads the MoDem party allied to his ruling faction, raised doubts in comments to the Le Parisien daily, questioning if Attal “had the necessary experience to lead a country going through such profound difficulties”.

Prisca Thevenot, previously deputy youth minister, was named government spokesperson.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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