Ludovic Marin Associated Press Élisabeth Borne et Gabriel Attal, qui lui succède comme premier ministre, se sourient lors de la cérémonie de passation du pouvoir, mardi, à Matignon.
After 24 hours of unusual procrastination, French President Emmanuel Macron finally chose Gabriel Attal on Tuesday to succeed Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne. Despite the opposition of several pillars of the macronie, it is therefore the current Minister of Education, in office for barely six months, who will succeed the one who was nicknamed “Madame 49.3” for having resorted to 23 repeatedly to this expeditious procedure which allows the vote of the National Assembly to be circumvented due to lack of a parliamentary majority.
At 34, Attal, a rising political star, from the Socialist Party before becoming one of Emmanuel Macron's first followers in 2016, became the youngest prime minister of the Fifth Republic. A title previously held by Laurent Fabius, appointed at the age of 37 by François Mitterrand in 1984.
Despite his limited parliamentary experience and the fact that he had not headed any sovereign ministry, Gabriel Attal had recently become the most popular minister in the government. Appointed to Education barely six months ago, he stood out by banning, to general approval, the wearing of the abaya, a traditional Muslim outfit, at school. In favor of restoring the authority of teachers, he mentioned the return of the uniform and wanted to counter school bullying through “empathy courses”.
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In a cold considered polar by Parisians (-2°C), the new Prime Minister spoke with trembling hands to “those French people [of the middle class] who sometimes no longer find their way”. He said he saw in the appointment of the youngest prime minister of the Fifth Republic the “symbol of audacity and movement”. The former Minister of Education also says he takes with him “the school as the mother of [his] battles”. ” Tell the truth. Acting without delay is what my action will be as Prime Minister. »
A born politician
Unlike the former prefect Élisabeth Borne, whose profile has always been that of a technocrat, Attal has a much more political personality.
A true gifted communicator, he has had a faultless career since his studies at the chic École Alsacienne in Paris, his time at Sciences Po and his years of activism in the Socialist Party. He took his first steps in politics in the office of the socialist Minister of Health Marisol Touraine, before becoming government spokesperson during Emmanuel Macron's first term, then Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts.
Coming from the left, but attractive to part of the right, he appears to be the personal choice of the president to lead the policy of this last mandate. A policy that Emmanuel Macron says he wants to place under the sign of “rearmament”. But this choice does not go without opposition within the government itself, as suggested by the long hours of discussions which delayed this appointment.
Behind the scenes of the Élysée, we cannot hide the fact that ministers as influential as Bruno Le Maire (Economy) and Gérald Darmanin (Interior), as well as the presidents of majority parties, such as François Bayrou (MoDem) and Édouard Philippe (Horizons), do not appreciate the arrival in the political game of this newcomer. Especially three years before the presidential elections, during which Emmanuel Macron will not be able to run again.
A tactical choice
In the immediate future, observers see above all in this appointment a tactical choice intended to combat, five months before the European elections, the meteoric rise of this other rising star of politics, Jordan Bardella, president of the National Rally (RN) and head of the list in the European elections. At only 28 years old, this son of immigrants from the poor suburbs of the capital is at the top of all the polls and remains the only political figure to make it into the ranking of the 50 most popular personalities in France of the Sunday newspaper, far ahead of Gabriel Attal.
According to Bardella, “by appointing Gabriel Attal to Matignon, Emmanuel Macron wants to cling to his poll popularity to alleviate the pain of an interminable end to his reign. Rather, he risks taking the short-lived Minister of National Education with him in his fall…”
At the other end of the political spectrum, the leader of the radical left party La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, quipped: “Attal regains his position as spokesperson. The office of prime minister disappears. The presidential monarch governs alone with his court. Woe to the people whose princes are children. »
Gifted with “great political plasticity”, according to BFMTV political columnist Benjamin Duhamel, Gabriel Attal could appear as a political double of Emmanuel Macron. “Emmanuel Macron succeeds himself,” quipped the socialist Olivier Faure. In Education, “he acquired his popularity by speaking like the RN,” said RN deputy Laurent Jacobelli.
Borne victim of immigration law
In office since the re-election of Emmanuel Macron in April 2022, Élisabeth Borne will ultimately not have survived the recent parliamentary setbacks which shook the government during the adoption of the immigration law.
“I must submit my resignation,” the Prime Minister took care to specify in her letter. A way of emphasizing, by borrowing his words from Michel Rocard, that she leaves Matignon reluctantly like the latter.
During her 19 months in power, the second woman to lead a government of the Fifth Republic did not have much respite. While she was only the president's second choice, she went through the pension reform crisis to finally exhaust her political capital in the tumultuous debate on immigration. An episode which, because of an assembly without a majority or coalition, led to the adoption of a much more severe law with regard to illegal immigration than Emmanuel Macron wanted.
In the absence of this parliamentary majority, some expected the appointment of a more unifying right-wing personality, such as the Minister of Defense, Sébastien Lecornu. Elected deputy in 2017, Gabriel Attal has frequented ministerial offices more than the benches of the Assembly. Will he be able to forge alliances where Élisabeth Borne has often failed ?
Among the first to react to this appointment, the teaching unions deplored the appointment of a fourth Minister of Education in less than two years.
Despite its popularity rating, at the end of the day, a poll from the Journal du Dimancheand CNews revealed that 52% of French people said they did not trust him. When she was appointed, Élisabeth Borne enjoyed the trust of 53% of the population. Anxious to show that he is at work, in the afternoon, the new prime minister was already in Pas-de-Calais, where there were floods. We will only know the composition of the government in the coming days.
“By propelling Gabriel Attal to Matignon, Emmanuel Macron dared to gamble on youth by giving France the youngest head of government it has ever known. […] Youth, however, does not make a program,” writes Le Figaro. One thing is certain, Emmanuel Macron has just appointed a new potential candidate to succeed him in 2027.