President Macron has announced this week (January 9) that Gabriel Attal will be the next Prime Minister of France. The 34-year-old Parisian is the youngest person to hold the office since the country began its Fifth Republic in 1959.
The young politician has been described as “a brilliant orator, quick thinker and loyal follower of President Macron”.
In France, the political system dictates that the president appoints the prime minister, who is held accountable to parliament. Attal replaces former Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who resigned earlier this week (January 8) amid a cabinet reshuffle by President Macron. Borne had been in the role for 20 months prior to her exit, after a lack of parliamentary majority limited her progress.
Although a reshuffle by the president had been anticipated, the delay in the announcement of the new prime minister has created doubt around Macron’s political stability in the run-up to the European Parliament elections later this year. In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, Macron said “I know I can count on your energy and your commitment” to the newly appointed PM.
Friends of Attal have said his “political ambition” began after attending his first demonstration against the presidential bid of far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002. At age 17, he became a member of the Socialist Party, before leaving in 2016 to join En Marche, the centrist political party of Emmanuel Macron, later becoming La République En Marche (LREM).
Elected to parliament in 2017, Attal became the youngest minister at age 29 in a junior role before becoming an official government spokesperson a year later and then Budget Minister, followed by Education Minister in 2023. Attal is now responsible for coordinating government ministers as well as implementing domestic policy in his new role.
Over the past decade however, his politics have shifted slightly to take a centre-right position, which has left some questioning the nature of his intentions. Upon his appointment as Education Minister, Attal’s first move was to ban the Muslim abaya dress in state schools. Defending his announcement, the young politician said in a TV interview that when entering a classroom, “you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them”, which went down well with conservatives, but angered many on the left.
Attal has also made some unpopular comments over striking workers, arguing that the country needed “to get out of the strike culture” after the SNCF staff strikes in 2018. He raised similar issues with students protesting the education system, calling them “selfish bobos”.
But despite some controversial moments, Attal’s new appointment has brought “a cultural revolution” to France, with him being both openly gay the youngest prime minister in modern times. Dissimilarly to some of those around him, Attal is popular with a range of voters. His appointment is thought to be a political move in an attempt to boost popularity ahead of the European Parliament elections in June.
It has been suggested that the new prime minister will need to use his popularity to overcome the problems faced by his predecessor. The hard-right opposition, led by Marine Le Pen, presents a very real threat, and may win big in June. In addition to this, En Marche currently has no majority in the National Assembly, which makes passing laws difficult. One poll currently has Macron behind Marine Le Pen at eight to ten percentage points.
Ahead of his appointment, a recent poll by Elabe for Les Échos, stated that 36% of respondents believed Attal would make a good prime minister. It will be interesting to see how the young PM fairs in his new position over coming months.
Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison
Photo credit: Associated Press/Francois Mori
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