In a strategic move ahead of the Paris Olympic Games and European Parliament elections, French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed Gabriel Attal, a 34-year-old media-savvy leader, as the country’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister. This decision aims to inject new energy into Macron’s presidency as centrist forces face challenges from the far-right under Marine Le Pen.
The appointment follows the resignation of Elisabeth Borne, 62, who served less than two years. Macron expressed confidence in Attal, emphasizing the need to bring back the spirit of bold change that characterized his initial term in 2017.
Attal, known for his popularity during a brief stint at the education ministry, takes over from Borne with a promise to symbolize “audacity and movement.” His commitment to transforming France and instilling a sense of excellence aligns with Macron’s vision for the remainder of his term.
Despite the optimism, opposition leaders, including Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen, criticized the move. Le Pen questioned the effectiveness of a fourth prime minister in seven years, emphasizing the perceived lack of accomplishments.
Attal immediately engaged in his new role, visiting areas affected by flooding in northern France. The reshuffle, expected to continue throughout the week, aims to reshape Macron’s cabinet for the final three years of his presidency.
The choice of Attal, a key figure in the Macron administration, underscores the president’s offensive strategy for the upcoming European elections in June. Constitutional expert Benjamin Morel sees this as a calculated move to strengthen Macron’s centrist party amid challenges and prevent him from becoming a “lame duck” leader.
As Macron and Attal work to form a new government, there is anticipation and speculation about potential candidates for key ministerial positions. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin express their willingness to stay on, providing stability amidst the reshuffle.
Attal’s ambitious and more seasoned cabinet colleagues may pose challenges, but Macron’s decision reflects a desire to promote a “Macron generation” of thirtysomethings. The appointment of Emmanuel Moulin, a close ally of Macron’s chief of staff, as Attal’s chief of staff suggests a close watch on the new prime minister.
With widespread public discontent over living costs and past reforms impacting Macron’s ratings, the appointment of Attal is seen as a strategic move to improve the president’s chances in the upcoming elections, where the centrist party trails behind the far-right. Attal’s popularity and reputation as a smooth communicator during the COVID pandemic position him as a key player in shaping the future direction of Macron’s presidency.