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Gabriel Attal, 34, becomes France’s youngest prime minister in decades – CNN News

By Joshua Berlinger and Dalal Mawad, CNN

Gabriel Attal is seen in this file photograph after a cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on December 12, 2023.

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 as he looks to jumpstart his government’s flagging popularity.

Attal will be the youngest prime minister since the founding of the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and the first openly gay man to serve in the post – making him one of the world’s most prominent and powerful LGBTQ politicians.

Attal, a rising star in Macron’s Renaissance Party, has served as minister of education and national youth since July. During his tenure, he enacted a controversial ban on the wearing of the abaya in French public schools and has worked on raising awareness of 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.

Before leading the Education Ministry, Attal served as the government spokesman and then as minister of public works and public accounts. As prime minister, he will be charged with forming a new government and ensuring the passage of legislation that advances the president’s agenda.

He replaces Elisabeth Borne, who resigned from her post on Monday after a tumultuous 20-month tenure marked by unpopular retirement reforms and the urban riots last summer that followed the police shooting of a teenage boy of Algerian descent.

Borne became the first female prime minister in three decades when Macron named her to the post in May of 2022, shortly after his reelection. Her party then failed to win an absolute majority in parliamentary elections the following month, which ended up stymieing her government’s ability to pass new laws.

On more than 20 occasions, Borne resorted to using a constitutional clause that allowed the government to push through bills in the lower house without a vote, including the raising the age of retirement. Borne’s repeated use of the tool led to accusations of anti-democratic behavior and earned her the nickname “Madame 49.3,” a reference to the clause itself.

Most recently, Borne’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, spearheaded a controversial immigration reform bill that, among other things, gave local prefects more authority in dealing with undocumented workers while also limiting the welfare benefits they can receive.

The legislation’s proponents said the reforms proposed are popular with the French public, pointing to recent surveys, while its detractors argued that it included too many concessions to the far-right, such as restricting how birthright citizenship can be obtained. Longtime far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen called the bill an “ideological victory” for her political party.

Borne’s departure was unsurprising, as it came ahead of a long-anticipated cabinet reshuffle. Macron and his government have been lagging in opinion polls, while Le Pen and the far-right are enjoying an unprecedented level of support.

The French president is likely looking for a political reset ahead of this summer’s European elections and the Olympics in Paris. Surveys show that Attal is one of the more well-liked members of Macron’s government.

“The path toward turnover starts June 9,” Le Pen said on X, referring to the upcoming EU vote.

CNN’s Chris Liakos and Maya Szaniecki contributed to this report.

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