Printed on Mon Jul 04 2022 2:32:42 AM

France's Macron chose Borne as the new Prime Minister

International desk

French President Emmanuel Macron has named Élisabeth Borne as the new prime minister, opting for an experienced technocrat from the political left to take charge of the domestic agenda for his second term.

On Monday afternoon, May 16th, Macron met Jean Castex at the Élysée Palace to receive his official resignation as prime minister and welcomed Borne shortly afterwards.

Borne, a 61-year-old veteran civil servant is the second woman to be named to the powerful post at the head of the French government presiding over a sprawling public sector. Édith Cresson, who served as prime minister for 10 months in 1991 under Socialist president François Mitterrand, recently said any woman named to the job would need “a lot of courage” to face France’s “macho political class”.

Analysts said the appointment could be seen as a gesture to counteract criticism that Macron’s presidency tilted towards the political right in the first five-year term. Macron picked his previous two prime ministers from the centre-right Les Républicains party.

Polls show that the party and its allies are on track to win a sizeable majority of at least 310 of 577 seats. However, a new left-wing alliance led by former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon also has momentum, while the far-right Rassemblement National led by Marine Le Pen is also aiming to win enough seats to block the president’s agenda.

Macron, who beat Le Pen in April, had said he wanted his new prime minister to be a woman with experience working on environmental, social and economic issues.

Before joining Macron’s party and government in 2017, Borne spent much of her career working for Socialist politicians including then prime minister Lionel Jospin. Over the past five years, she has served as minister for transport and then the environment before being appointed labour minister.

Borne’s time at the labour ministry, where she negotiated an unpopular reform of unemployment insurance with wary unions, is expected to be a useful experience as she tries to push through one of Macron’s big campaign promises — to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 or 65 to improve France’s public finances.

Macron tried to enact a similar change in his first term but was stymied by street protests before abandoning it once the Covid-19 pandemic began.

After winning a second term, Macron acknowledged in his victory speech that he had been elected with the support of many left-wing voters who did not support his programme but wanted to block the far-right from power. “I want to tell them that I am conscious of what their vote requires of me,” he said.

Far-left leader Mélenchon hit back by saying he did not see Borne as a politician from the left, and that calling her as much amounted to “an attempt at political fraud”. “She is one of the harshest figures who have carried out the mistreatment of workers that typifies Macronism,” he said.


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