Gabriel Attal has been chosen as France's next prime minister, as Emmanuel Macron seeks to revive his presidency with a new government. At the age of 34, Attal is also the youngest Prime Minister in modern French history, surpassing even Laurent Fabius, a Socialist who was 37 when appointed by François Mitterrand in 1984.
Attal takes over from Élisabeth Borne, who resigned from the position after serving for 20 months. During that period, she grappled with a lack of majority in parliament. The selection of Attal, the current education minister, is undoubtedly a noteworthy appointment. Attal is also the first openly gay to be appointed Prime Minster of any country
Youngest and Openly Gay
Macron aims to revitalize his challenging second term, marked by widespread protests against a pension reform and internal disagreements within his political coalition over an immigration bill, resulting in significant strains within his governing coalition.
Attal now has the responsibility to lead the French government into the crucial European Parliament elections scheduled for June.
"The President of the Republic has appointed Mr Gabriel Attal as prime minister, and tasked him with forming a government," the French presidency announced in a press release Tuesday.
Attal has been dubbed a "baby Macron" due to his ambitious nature, prominent media presence, and centrist political stance. He is recognized as the most well-known and identifiable figure within the close circle of young politicians surrounding the president.
During his five-month tenure as education minister, where he took a firm stance on authority and secularism, including prohibiting girls in state schools from wearing abayas and exploring the introduction of school uniforms, Attal's popularity surged, making him the most favored minister in the government according to opinion polls.
Macron wrote on Twitter, expressing his reliance on Attal's energy and dedication to rekindle the spirit of 2017, the year of Macron's first election when he pledged to revolutionize French politics.
Attal is considered by some as a skilled political communicator having served as budget minister and gaining prominence as the government spokesperson during the Covid pandemic.
Known for his calm and meticulous speaking style, he can be assertive in political TV debates, particularly against the far right, and emphasizes the importance of "speaking to people's hearts." Attal garnered support for sharing his experience of being bullied during his school years.
Attal's rise has been rapid. A decade ago, he held a relatively obscure position as an adviser in the health ministry and was a card-carrying member of the Socialists. Notably, Attal is the first openly gay prime minister of France and is in a civil partnership with Stéphane Séjourné, a member of the European Parliament for Macron's Renaissance party.
With his handsome, youthful, and charming demeanor, Attal enters office with a considerable aura of popularity, much like his mentor and role model, Macron.
Sharing Macron's vision of breaking away from the traditional left-right political divide, Attal became a member of parliament after Macron's 2017 election. Recognized for his exceptional debating skills, he quickly caught the president's attention.
At the age of 29, Attal became the youngest minister in the history of the Fifth Republic, assuming a junior post in education. His brilliance as a debater and rising prominence led to his appointment as government spokesperson in 2020.
Following Macron's reelection, he briefly served as budget minister before taking over the education portfolio in July.
In his role as education minister, Attal showcased his determination by decisively handling controversies, such as banning Muslim abaya robes in schools to resolve a dispute in September.
He also led a campaign against bullying, drawing on his own experiences as a victim at the École alsacienne in Paris. Also, he challenged the education establishment with proposals to experiment with school uniforms.
Although Attal was initially aligned with the centrist wing of the left's Socialist party, he decided to leave the party in his 20s to support Macron's centrist project in 2017.
Recognized as a proponent of centrist politics in France, he has recently extended efforts to connect with members of parliament from the rightwing party Les Républicains, as their support often proves essential for the passage of legislation.
The replacement of former Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and the government reshuffle under Macron is not considered a fundamental political shift. Sylvain Maillard, the head of Macron's Renaissance party in parliament, said that he has confidence in Attal that he would faithfully carry out Macron's vision for the country.