Gabriel Attal Becomes France’s Youngest Prime Minister As Macron Seeks Second Term

Gabriel Attal Becomes France’s Youngest Prime Minister As Macron Seeks Second Term

By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Emmanuel Macron has appointed France’s youngest prime minister in modern times, Gabriel Attal, as he seeks to reinvigorate a difficult second term as president and limit any possible gains for the far right in the forthcoming European elections in June.

Attal, 34, who was serving as education minister, has been referred to as a “baby Macron” in terms of his ambition, strong media presence and centrist politics, and is considered the best-known and most recognisable face of the close circle of young politicians around the president.

During his five months defending a hard line on authority and secularism as education minister – including banning girls in state schools from wearing abayas and experimenting with introducing school uniform – Attal had shot up the opinion polls as the most popular minister in government.

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Macron wrote on X that he was counting on Attal’s energy and engagement to restore the spirit of 2017 – the year of Macron’s first election when he promised to revolutionize French politics. Since 2022, Macron’s second term has been defined by turbulence in a divided parliament since losing his absolute majority in elections shortly after being reelected president.

Attal, who has also served as budget minister, became a household name as government spokesperson during the Covid pandemic and is regarded by some as a master of political communication. A calm, careful speaker who can sometimes be ferocious in political TV debates against the far right, he is known to believe that it is important “to speak to people’s hearts”. He won support for speaking out about being bullied at school.

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Attal is also the first openly gay prime minister of France and in a civil partnership with Stéphane Séjourné, a member of the European parliament for Macron’s Renaissance party.

Although Attal was once part of the centrist wing of the left’s Socialist party, he quit in his 20s to support Macron’s centrist project in 2017. Viewed as a defender of centrist politics in France, he has also in recent months reached out to members of parliament in the rightwing party Les Républicains, whose support is often crucial for legislation to be passed.

Macron’s decision to replace the former prime minister Élisabeth Borne and reshuffle the government is not regarded as a fundamental political shift. Sylvain Maillard, head of Macron’s Renaissance party in parliament, said Attal could be relied on to “faithfully” carry Macron’s project for the country.

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The president is trying to move beyond a difficult past year, including unpopular pension changes and a recent row over the introduction of a hardline immigration law that divided his party and was seen by some as an ideological victory for the ideas of Marine Le Pen and the radicalized right.

It is also an attempt to improve the chances of Macron’s centrist party in the June EU ballot where they are polling behind Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party.

Jordan Bardella, the president of RN, who is leading the European election fight and is known for his heated TV debates with Attal, said Macron was just trying to attach himself to Attal’s popularity in the polls to limit what he called the pain of an interminable sense of decline.

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