France’s Macron to name new PM as he launches political reset

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron was expected to appoint a new prime minister on Tuesday (Jan 9), as he seeks to boost his second mandate ahead of European parliament elections.

The move will not necessarily lead to any major political shift but rather signals a desire for Macron to try to move beyond last year’s unpopular pension and immigration reforms by focusing on new priorities, including reaching full employment.

The new prime minister will also be tasked with trying to improve Macron’s centrist party’s chances in the June EU elections. Opinion polls show them trailing far-right leader Marine Le Pen by around eight to ten percentage points.

Macron, who has struggled to deal with a more turbulent parliament since losing his absolute majority shortly after being reelected in 2022, announced on Monday that Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was resigning.

Education Minister Gabriel Attal, a close Macron ally who became a household name after being appointed government spokesman during the COVID-19 pandemic, was widely cited by political sources and French media as a strong favourite to replace Borne.

If that is confirmed, Attal would, at 34, become France’s youngest prime minister, and the first to be openly gay.

Once a member of France’s socialist party before joining Macron, Attal was a junior finance minister and became education minister in 2023, making a name for himself as one of Macron’s most savvy ministers, at ease on radio shows and in parliament.

“If it is indeed Gabriel Attal, it was the best card the president could play,” Ifop pollster Jerome Fourquet told BFM TV, pointing to his popularity, which he said Attal gained thanks to taking quick action as education minister, and through his communication skills.

Opposition leaders were quick to say they did not expect much from the change in prime minister.

“Elisabeth Borne, Gabriel Attal or someone else, I don’t care, it will just be the same policies,” Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure told France Inter radio.

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