France Appoints Youngest-Ever and First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal

Gabriel Attal on May 11, 2022, has been named France’s youngest-ever prime minister and its first openly gay one. This move comes as President Emmanuel Macron aims for a fresh start in response to mounting political pressure from the far right.

Gabriel Attal

Gabriel Attal, aged 34, gained prominence as the government spokesperson and later as the education minister, consistently ranking as the most popular minister in the outgoing government.

His predecessor, Elisabeth Borne, resigned on Monday amid political unrest over an immigration law empowering the government to deport foreigners.

Macron will collaborate with Attal to form a new government in the upcoming days, with expectations that some key ministers will retain their positions.

Posted on X by French Presiden E. Macron

I know I can count on your energy and your commitment,” Macron posted on X in a message to Attal. The president referenced Attal reviving the ”spirit of 2017,” when Macron brought significant political changes, securing a surprise victory as France’s youngest-ever president, advocating a pro-business centrist platform aimed at revitalizing one of the world’s largest economies.

Attal views his selection as “a symbol of confidence in young people”

During the handover ceremony, Attal remarked, “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 outlined his goals, emphasizing making security an “absolute priority” and promoting values of “authority and respect for others.” He pledged to strengthen public services, including schools and the health system, and advocate for “better controlling immigration.”

Macron, aged 46, has shifted towards the right on security and migration issues since his election. This shift is notable as far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigration, anti-Islam National Rally gain political influence.

132258205 gettyimages 1637302580.jpg 1 France Appoints Youngest-Ever and First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal

The president’s second term extends until 2027, and he is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term. Observers suggest that Macron, a strong advocate of European integration, aims for his new government to prepare for June’s European Union elections, anticipating an increase in influence by far-right, anti-EU populists.

Critics from both left and right have targeted Attal for his limited experience, his Parisian background perceived as disconnected from the struggles of people in the provinces, and his unwavering 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,” urging voters to choose her party in the European elections.

Eric Ciotti, head of the conservative party The Republicans, stated, “France urgently needs action: it needs a different approach.” The Republicans aim to remain a “responsible opposition” to the centrist government.

The founder of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 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 president appoints the prime minister, accountable to the parliament, responsible for implementing domestic policy, especially economic measures. The president retains substantial powers over foreign policy, European affairs, and serves as the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

Attal has held various roles in Macron’s government

Attal, a former member of the Socialist Party, joined Macron’s newly created political movement in 2016. He served as a spokesperson from 2020 to 2022, gaining recognition among the French public. Subsequently, he was appointed as the budget minister before assuming the role of education minister in July, one of the most prestigious positions in the government.

Attal promptly announced a ban on long robes in classrooms, effective from the new school year in September, citing that such garments, mainly worn by Muslims, tested secularism in schools.

He also initiated a plan to experiment with uniforms in some public schools, aiming to shift focus away from clothes and reduce school bullying.

Attal recently shared details on national television TF1 about experiencing bullying in middle school, including homophobic harassment.

Attal is likely to encounter the same challenges as his predecessor: Macron’s centrists lost their majority in parliament last year, compelling the government into political maneuvering and utilizing special constitutional powers to pass laws.

The intense negotiations over the immigration bill and heated parliamentary debates raised concerns about Borne’s government’s ability to pass major legislation.

Borne also faced mass protests last year, marked by violence, against a law to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, and days of riots across France triggered by the deadly police shooting of a teen.

Borne left office expressing pride in the work accomplished over the last 20 months, enabling her government “to pass the budget, the pension reform, the immigration law, and more than 50 other texts designed to meet the challenges faced by our country.”

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, a key proponent of the immigration bill, expressed readiness to continue leading the country’s police forces, particularly with the Paris Olympics less than 200 days away, highlighting significant security issues at stake.

Image source: Google, Reuters

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