Amid political challenges, expectations are high for France’s new PM

With high inflation, upcoming European parliamentary elections and the Olympic Games in Paris, Gabriel Attal, France's new prime minister, faces the challenge of maintaining his popularity while working under pressure in 2024.

3 mins read
This file photo taken on July 7, 2020 shows Gabriel Attal at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

French President Emmanuel Macron appointed Gabriel Attal as the prime minister on Tuesday following the resignation of former head of government Elisabeth Borne.

From 2020 to 2022, Attal served as the spokesperson of the government of former Prime Minister Jean Castex before becoming Minister Delegate for the Budget of former Prime Minister Borne’s government.

Having served as Minister of National Education and Youth since July 2023, Attal, at the age of 34, becomes the youngest prime minister in the French Fifth Republic.

Macron said on X, formerly Twitter, that he could count on the “energy” and “commitment” of Attal to implement his project of rearmament and regeneration.

A CHOICE TO REGAIN POPULARITY

In his New Year address to the Nation, Macron said that in 2024, he plans to continue what he started during his second term: civic and economic rearmament for France.

“It’s up to us to do it together. It’s up to us to choose rather than to endure. It is up to us to forge the path rather than to follow,” he added.

Following a tough year of reforms and controversial law bills, Macron and Borne saw their popularity moving lower while that of the far-right wing party on the rise.

To regain public support leading up to the upcoming European parliamentary elections scheduled for June, Macron has opted for a government reshuffle, while Marine Le Pen, leading the National Rally party, has already got a head start as she put 28-year-old Jordan Bardella at the center of the party’s European parliamentary elections campaign.

According to a survey conducted by Ifop-Fiducial, cited by the French daily Le Figaro, Le Pen’s party would get about 30 percent of the vote, with Macron’s capturing 18 percent.

With Macron ineligible to run for the presidency in 2027, Le Pen appears to be using younger figures to raise her chance of becoming the first female president of the French Fifth Republic.

As the government’s spokesperson, Attal presented himself to the French public as a competent and articulate member of the government. As the former Minister of National Education, he implemented reforms, notably fostering dialogue with teachers, a move widely perceived as necessary.

Seen as the most popular minister and a firm follower of Macron, Attal became an obvious candidate in the popularity battle for Macron to push through his projects in the remaining three years of his second and last term as French president.

DISCONTENT AMONG POLITICAL PARTIES

Since Attal’s appointment as the prime minister, leaders of the French opposition have responded with varied sentiments.

Le Pen, Macron’s biggest political rival, wrote on her social media: “What can the French expect from this 4th prime minister and this 5th government in seven years? Nothing.”

“Tired of this puerile ballet of ambitions and egos, they expect a project that puts them back at the heart of public priorities. The road to change begins on June 9,” she said, referring to the upcoming European parliamentary elections.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, second runner-up of the 2022 French presidential election, described Attal as more of a “spokesperson” for Macron than a real prime minister. “The function of Prime Minister disappears. The presidential monarch governs alone with his court.”

The First Secretary of the Socialist Party Olivier Faure said that Macron “nominated his own clone, his own double.”

“The reality is that nothing is going to change,” Faure remarked, emphasizing Attal’s age was not a concern for him.

 Bardella said that the nomination of Attal as prime minister was Macron’s way to “cling to his poll popularity to alleviate the pain of an interminable end to his reign.”

According to local media, some senior ministers also contested Attal’s nomination.

HEAVY TASKS AHEAD

With high inflation, upcoming European parliamentary elections and the Olympic Games in Paris, Attal faces the challenge of maintaining his popularity while working under pressure in 2024.

To implement Macron’s vision, Attal said that he would continue to transform the French economy, prioritizing work. “Working must always be better valued than not working,” he said.

Seen as a good listener of all sides, Attal also promised to “always listen and respect the opposition” to gather all the “driving forces of the country.”

According to a survey published Tuesday night by Le Figaro, Attal has already gained a favorable opinion from 53 percent of the population.

Some 77 percent of the respondents liked Attal for his dynamism, 64 percent for his openness to dialogue and 62 percent for his competence. However, his young age is only considered as an asset by 35 percent of respondents.

People are already expecting him to bring drastic changes to France. Maitre Boukobza, a lawyer from the bourgeois 16th arrondissement of Paris, told Xinhua he expects a lot from Attal.

“France will never be synonymous with decline, France will be synonymous with transformation, France will be synonymous with audacity,” he said.

Macron said he hopes that Attal approaches the role of prime minister with the same spirit of excellence and audacity that characterized his initial victory in the 2017 presidential election. However, Attal’s foremost challenge as prime minister is constructing a more effective and supportive government.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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