(AP) — France saw its youngest-ever prime minister and first openly gay one named Tuesday as President Emmanuel Macron seeks a fresh start for the rest of his term amid growing political pressure from the far right.
Gabriel Attal, 34, rose to prominence as the government spokesperson then education minister and had polled as the most popular minister in the outgoing government.
His predecessor Elisabeth Borne resigned Monday following political turmoil over an immigration law that strengthens the government’s ability to deport foreigners.
Macron will work with Attal to name a new government in the coming days, though some key ministers are expected to stay on.
”I know I can count on your energy and your commitment,” Macron posted on X in a message to Attal. The president made a reference to Attal reviving the ”spirit of 2017,” when Macron shook up politics and shot to a surprise victory as France’s youngest-ever president on a pro-business centrist platform aimed at reviving one of the world’s biggest economies.
During the handover ceremony, Attal said: “I could read and hear it: the youngest president of the Republic in history appoints the youngest prime minister in history. I want to see it only as the symbol of boldness and movement. It is also, and perhaps above all, a symbol of confidence in young people.”
Attal said his goals include making security an “absolute priority” and promoting values of “authority and respect of others.” He also vowed to strengthen public services including schools and the health system and push for “better controlling immigration.”
Macron, 46, has shifted rightward on security and migration issues since his election, notably as far-right rival Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigration, anti-Islam National Rally have gained political influence.
The president’s second term lasts until 2027, and he is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term. Political observers have suggested that Macron, a staunch supporter of European integration, wants his new government to prepare for June’s European Union elections, where far-right, anti-EU populists are expected to increase their influence.
Critics from both left and right took aim at Attal for his limited experience, his Paris upbringing seen as out of touch with people struggling in the provinces, and his loyalty to the president.
Le Pen posted on X: “What can the French expect from this 4th prime minister and 5th government in 7 years (under Macron)? Nothing,” calling on voters instead to choose her party in the European elections.
In a statement, Eric Ciotti, head of the conservative party The Republicans, said, “France urgently needs action: it needs a different approach.” The Republicans would remain a “responsible opposition” to the centrist government, he added.
The founder of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, writing on X, mocked Attal for “returning to his position as spokesman. The function of prime minister is disappearing. The presidential monarch alone rules his court.”
Under the French political system, the prime minister is appointed by the president, accountable to the parliament and is in charge of implementing domestic policy, notably economic measures. The president holds substantial powers over foreign policy and European affairs and is the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.