Gabriel Attal: France's 34-year-old Macron's prime minister-elect

  • By Hugh Schofield
  • BBC News, Paris

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Gabriel Attal was sworn in on Tuesday following Elizabeth Bourne during an official ceremony at the Prime Minister's residence.

Gabriel Atal has been named France's next prime minister as Emmanuel Macron aims to renew his presidency with a new government.

At 34, he is the youngest prime minister in modern French history, surpassing socialist Laurent Fabius, who was 37 when he was appointed by François Mitterrand in 1984.

Mr Attal replaces Elizabeth Bourne, who resigned after 20 months in the role.

Throughout that time he struggled with the lack of a majority in Parliament.

Gabriel Attal, who is currently the education minister, certainly makes an interesting appointment.

He will now be tasked with leading the French government to crucial European Parliament elections in June.

His rise was rapid. Ten years ago he was an obscure adviser in the Ministry of Health and a card-carrying member of the Socialists.

He was the first gay man of the Hotel Matignon. She has a civil partnership with another Macron whiz-kid, MEP Stéphane Sejournay.

Welcoming him to his new role, President Macron wrote on social media: “I know I can count on your energy and your commitment to implement the revitalization and regeneration program I announced.”

image source, Ludovic Marin/AFP/Pool

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Gabriel Attal (L) is tasked with leading the government in June's European Parliament elections

“France never rhymes with decline, France rhymes with change, France rhymes with bravery,” Mr Attal declared outside his new home.

But given the difficulties of the president's second term and a growing challenge from the nationalist right – is “eyeballing” the only thing going to cut it?

Handsome, young, charming, popular, talented, Mr. Attal is sure to grace the office.

But like many wealthy people of his generation, he was drawn to Emmanuel Macron's idea of ​​breaking down the old left-right divide and rewriting the codes of French politics.

After Macron's 2017 election, Mr Attal became a member of parliament, where his acumen as a debater – easily bested by the neophyte Macronite – brought him to the president's attention.

At the age of 29, he became the youngest minister in the Fifth Republic with a junior position in education; Since 2020 he has been the government spokesman and his face has begun to register with voters; After President Macron's re-election, he was briefly budget minister, then took charge of education last July.

He acted with a foolish determination to end the September row over Muslim abaya dresses by banning them from schools.

He led a campaign against bullying — himself a victim, he says — at the elite École alsacienne in Paris, and took on the academy with his proposal to experiment with school uniforms.

image source, Jacques Demorton/AFP

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President Macron's party faces a strong challenge from the National Rally and its young leader Jordan Bartella and Marine Le Pen.

And, all the while, he was actually able to change normal trends by becoming popular with the public.

Polls show she is the most admired member of Macron's government – competing on the same level as the president's main rival, nationalist Marine Le Pen, and her youthful colleague Jordan Bartella.

And there, of course, is its heart.

By drawing Gabriel Attal from his portfolio of ministers, Mr Macron is using an ace to outwit the Queen and her jack. But does it work?

The process of naming him — everyone knew a reshuffle was coming, but it would take forever — showed that if President Macron was well aware of the fragility of his current position, he was deeply uncertain about how to address it.

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Mr Attal replaces Elizabeth Bourne, but faces the same problems as he did without a majority in the National Assembly

More than one commentator has made it clear that what the public wants above all now is not a reshuffle of the faces at the top, but a renewed sense of purpose for the Macron presidency.

But as things stand, Mr Attel will face the same problems as his long-time predecessor, Elizabeth Bourne.

These are: a hard-right opposition, growing in popularity and poised to easily win the June European elections; The National Assembly, which lacks a built-in majority for the government, makes every new law a struggle; And a president who can't define what he wants to achieve in his second term.

On top of that, the new prime minister will have a problem of his own – establishing his authority over heavyweights like Gerald Dorman and Bruno Le Maire.

Some also ask what the plan is if Mr Macron's party loses a landslide in the European elections.

Usually this would be the occasion for a prime ministerial change, to provide a new élan in the second half of the mandate. But as things stand, that card has already been played, and Gabriel Atal risks becoming a discredited loser if he loses in June.

Even opposition figures recognize that he is a class act. He is respected and liked in the National Assembly.

But there are also questions about what he really stands for. What many doubt is that he is as smiley and wordy as the man to whom he owes his life.

As a presidential candidate, he is a wunderkind's wunderkind. But if he's just Macron's mini-me, the miracle could prove an illusion.

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