French PM resigns, Macron to name new government

Elisabeth Borne's resignation comes just five months before European Parliament elections

By Reuters

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Elisabeth Borne. — AFP file
Elisabeth Borne. — AFP file

Published: Mon 8 Jan 2024, 10:02 PM

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resigned on Monday, as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to give a new impetus to his second mandate ahead of European parliament elections and the Paris Olympics this summer.

Macron did not immediately name her successor.

The change in prime minister comes after a year marred by political crises triggered by contested reforms of the pension system and immigration laws.

It also comes just five months before European Parliament elections, with eurosceptics expected to make record gains at a time of widespread public discontent over surging living costs and the failure of European governments to curb migration flows.

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In France, opinion polls show Macron's party trailing that of far-right leader Marine Le Pen by some eight to ten points ahead of the June vote.

Speculation of a government reshuffle had been rife in the weeks since the narrow adoption in parliament of toughened immigration rules exposed deep cracks in Macron's centrist majority. Macron himself promised a new political initiative.

Among those cited as potential candidates to replace Borne are 34-year-old Education Minister Gabriel Attal and 37-year-old Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu, either of whom would be France's youngest ever prime minister.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and former agriculture minister Julien Denormandie have also been mentioned by pundits as possible options.

The change in prime minister will not necessarily lead to a shift in political tack, but rather signal a desire to move beyond the pension and immigration reforms and focus on new priorities, including hitting full employment.

A soft-spoken career bureaucrat who served numerous Socialist Party ministers before joining Macron's governments, Borne had been prime minister since May 2022.

Aged 62, she was only the second woman to serve in the post.

Macron and his government, led by Borne, have struggled to deal with a more turbulent parliament to pass laws since losing their absolute majority shortly after Macron was reelected for a second mandate in 2022.

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The French president's advisers say he has managed to pass the most challenging parts of his economic manifesto in the first year and a half of his second mandate, despite the lack of an absolute majority, and that future reforms, on education and euthanasia for instance, will be more consensual.

But Macron's decision to use executive powers last year to pass a contested increase in the pension age to 64 triggered weeks of violent protests.

The reshuffle is likely to intensify the race in Macron's camp to succeed him in the next presidential election in 2027, with former prime minister Edouard Philippe, Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin and Le Maire all seen as potential candidates.


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