PARIS — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resigned Monday ahead of a long-awaited reshuffle, the French presidency announced — but the composition of President Emmanuel Macron’s next government remains uncertain.
Borne, the second woman to serve as prime minister after Edith Cresson under François Mitterrand, will stay on to handle current affairs until a new government is appointed.
While several names have been floated in the press over the past few days as potential suitors for the premiership, current Education Minister Gabriel Attal was widely seen Monday as Borne’s most likely successor, which would make him the youngest ever and first openly gay French Prime Minister.
In a social media post, Macron thanked Borne for her “exemplary” work. “You have carried out our project with the courage, commitment and determination of a stateswoman. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Macron said.
Borne arrived at the Matignon Palace in May of 2022 following Macron’s reelection. During her 20 months tenure, twice as long as Edith Cresson, Borne governed without an absolute majority in the French lower house, a setting which had only occurred once under the French Fifth Republic.
Macron is looking to revive his second term after 2023 was hampered by mass protests against his government’s pension reform, urban riots and an immigration law debacle. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau exited in protest in December and other leading left-leaning Cabinet members voiced their concerns as the government gave in to hard-line conservatives on points including limiting access to state benefits for recently arrived immigrants and a reform of birthright citizenship.
“Finally!” the far-right National Rally’s Vice-President Sébastien Chenu posted on X after Borne’s ousting was made public, while Mathilde Panot, head of the radical left France Unbowed movement in parliament, accused Borne of “leaving behind her a badly damaged democracy.” Members of the pro-Macron coalition, on the other hand, praised the outgoing head of government, with many MPs underlining her “courage” in the face of political adversity.
The presidential camp is set for a showdown with the far-right National Rally during the upcoming European election in June. Marine Le Pen’s party, led by its own political wonderkid Jordan Bardella, is shown about 10 points ahead of the presidential camp in the latest polls. The pro-Macron coalition has not yet announced its lead candidate or officially launched its campaign.
Ahead of the reshuffle, Macron’s third since his reelection in 2022, the French president postponed the year’s first planned Cabinet meeting, fueling rumors of an upcoming change in governance.
“In 2023, France was likely amongst the Western countries which, in spite of the context, led the most transformations,” Macron said in his new year address. “Some of these, like the pensions reform, were unpopular. I stand by them as they were necessary … I would like to thank in particular the prime minister and her government.”