Gabriel Attel became France's youngest and first openly gay prime minister


Paris
CNN

Gabriel Attal, the 34-year-old French education minister, has been named the country's new prime minister, a history-making appointment by President Emmanuel Macron, who is fueling a flag-waving of his government.

Attal will be France's youngest prime minister and the first openly gay to serve in office — making him one of the world's most prominent and powerful LGBTQ politicians.

Atal, a rising star in Macron's Renaissance Party, has served as education and national youth minister since July. During her tenure, she enacted a controversial ban on the wearing of the abaya in French public schools and worked to raise awareness about bullying in schools.

“I know I can count on your energy and your commitment,” Macron said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, following the announcement.

In a separate post, Atal thanked Macron for his “confidence” and vowed to “retain control of our destiny” and “unleash our French potential.”

In a speech after his appointment, Attal noted that education, inflation, the liberalization of the French economy and youth development were the country's priorities. .”

“As the Prime Minister, I will devote all necessary means to its success. It will be one of my absolute priorities as head of government,” he added.

Attal, like the French president, was affiliated with the centre-left Socialist Party before joining Macron's centrist political movement. His politics have sometimes drifted to the right in recent years, though he retains a political identity that shifts shape in the mold of his employer.

Attal was the government spokesman during the pandemic, which immediately raised his profile among the French public. His political career progressed at lightning speed for a man of his age. During Macron's second term, Atal led the Ministry of Public Works and Public Accounts before becoming Education Minister.

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As prime minister, he will be charged with forming a new government and passing legislation that will advance the president's agenda. However, most of the power rests with the French president.

He replaces Elizabeth Bourne, who resigned on Monday after a tumultuous 20-month tenure marked by unpopular pension reforms and urban riots last summer following the police shooting of a teenage boy of Algerian descent.

At a handover ceremony with Bourne on Tuesday, Attal described his predecessor as a “prime minister of action and courage”.

“Your personal story and your political ethics make you a role model. We know what we owe you,” Attal said.

Bourne, meanwhile, said he was “proud of the work accomplished in these nearly 20 months” and that he had “implemented programs that seemed right and necessary for our country.”

Bourne became the first female prime minister in three decades when Macron appointed her to the post shortly after his re-election in May 2022. His party failed to win an outright majority in parliamentary elections the following month, halting his government's ability to enact new laws.

On more than 20 occasions, Bourne has invoked a constitutional clause that allows the government to pass bills in the lower house without a vote, including raising the retirement age. Bourne's repeated use of the instrument led to accusations of anti-democratic behavior and earned her the nickname “Madam 49.3”.

Most recently, Bourne's home secretary, Gerald Dorman, spearheaded a controversial immigration reform bill.

Supporters of the law have argued that the proposed reforms are popular with the French public, pointing to recent surveys, and its opponents argue that they include too many concessions for the far-right, such as restricting how birthright citizenship can be obtained. Marine Le Pen, a longtime far-right leader, called the bill an “ideological victory” for her political party.

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Bourne's departure comes as no surprise as it comes ahead of a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle. Macron and his government are trailing in opinion polls, while Le Pen and the far-right are enjoying unprecedented levels of support.

Ahead of this summer's European elections and the Olympics in Paris, the French president is looking for a political overhaul. Polls show Attal is one of the most popular members of Macron's government.

Le Pen X said the French could “expect nothing” from their new government and called the cabinet reshuffle a “childish ballet of ambitions and egos”.

“The road to revenue starts on June 9,” he said, referring to the upcoming EU referendum.

CNN's Chris Liakos and Maya Sanicki contributed to this report.

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