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Macron names Gabriel Attal as France’s youngest prime minister

In World
January 09, 2024

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday named education minister Gabriel Attal as prime minister in a bid to give new momentum to his presidency, with the 34-year-old becoming France’s youngest and first openly gay head of government, a source close to the presidency told AFP. 

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After days of intense behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, outgoing prime minister Élisabeth Borne resigned Monday evening, with Attal emerging as the favourite to succeed the 62-year-old.

The absence of a swift announcement fuelled talk that heavyweight government figures might be involved in intense bargaining over Attal.

However sources close to those said to be behind the tensions, including Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, vehemently denied this. 

The reshuffle comes ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris and European parliament elections this summer where Macron’s centrist forces risk defeat at the hands of the far-right under Marine Le Pen.

‘Fragile as ever’

Commentators see the reshuffle as essential to relaunch Macron’s centrist presidency for its last three years and prevent him becoming a “lame duck” leader after a series of crises.

Since he defeated the far right to win a second term in 2022, Macron has faced protests over unpopular pension reforms, the loss of his overall majority in parliamentary elections and controversy over immigration legislation.

While Macron cannot run again in 2027 presidential elections, relaunching his government is seen as crucial to help prevent Le Pen becoming president.

Other possible candidates to succeed Borne included 37-year-old Defence Minister Sébastien Lecornu and 43-year-old Julien Denormandie, a former agriculture minister.

The conservative daily Le Figaro said Borne was leaving a political situation “that remains as fragile as ever”.

“Changing a face at the top doesn’t change the overall picture,” the newspaper said, adding Borne’s successor was facing “an overwhelming pile of political emergencies” including the task to unite a fragmented nation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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