French President Emmanuel Macron has chosen his Education Minister Gabriel Attal, 34, as the new prime minister, in a move seen as an attempt to revive his flagging popularity and prepare for the upcoming European parliament elections in June.
Attal, who is France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister, is a loyal supporter of Macron and a familiar face to the public as the government spokesman during the COVID crisis. He is also one of the most popular politicians in the country, according to recent polls.
He will replace Elisabeth Borne, who resigned after less than a year in office, following Macron’s announcement of a new project of “revitalisation and regeneration” for France at the end of last year.
Macron, who lost his parliamentary majority shortly after his reelection in 2022, faces a tough challenge from the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, who is ahead of him by about 10 points in opinion polls.
The president hopes that Attal, who has a reputation as a competent and charismatic minister, will help him regain some ground and improve his centrist party’s prospects in the EU ballot.
However, the opposition has dismissed the change in prime minister as a cosmetic gesture that will not alter Macron’s unpopular policies on pension and immigration reforms.
“Gabriel Attal is just a new face for the same old system,” said Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure.
Jordan Bardella, the leader of the National Rally, accused Macron of trying to “cling to his popularity in opinion polls” and predicted that he would “drag the short-lived Education Minister with him in his fall”.
But Patrick Vignal, a member of parliament from Macron’s Renaissance party, praised Attal as “a bit like the Macron of 2017”, when the president was elected as the youngest leader in modern French history and enjoyed high approval ratings.
“Attal is clear, he has authority, he is the right choice for this moment,” Vignal said.