Macron Names New French Prime Minister as Polls Herald Electoral Defeat
French President Emmanuel Macron appointed a new prime minister on Monday, becoming the first woman to fill the role in over 30 years.
Elisabeth Borne, the country's former labor minister, was promoted to the post after Jean Castex, a Macron ally, resigned from his post. The move is part of Macron's effort to shake up his cabinet ahead of France's general election in the second week of June, which will decide whether his newly-named Renaissance party has a legislative majority to implement his agenda. Macron himself was re-elected to a second five-year term as president earlier this month.
In France's semi-presidential government, unlike other parliamentary systems, the role of prime minister is largely subordinate to the president, who directs domestic and foreign policy when both belong to the same party. However, if both belong to different parties, according to the constitutional convention, the prime minister directs domestic politics while the president directs the country's foreign policy. Most prime ministers serve very short terms, usually lasting two years.
Borne's election is seen as an attempt by Macron to avoid such a scenario. After failing to win the presidency last month, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and far-right candidate Éric Zemmour have both announced they will seek the post of prime minister. If successful, their appointment would split the French executive between two parties - a situation that has caused controversy in the past. Notably, in 1986 President François Mitterrand appointed Jacques Chirac (himself a future president) to the role despite coming from rival parties, leading observers to create a "diarchy" in the French state.
Borne, 61, is a former Socialist Party member and civil servant who has held various posts in the French state. She was Prefect - the executive director of a French region - of Vienne, a historic city and former center of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar, before becoming CEO of the RATP Group, France's national transport authority. During Macron's tenure, she held cabinet portfolios on transport, labor and climate change. The latter two brought them into the public eye during France's long-running yellow vest labor protests and the country's efforts to transition its energy sources and meet climate change commitments.
She is the first woman to hold the post of Prime Minister after Edith Cresson, who served briefly between 1991 and 1992. According to observers, her gender, socialist leanings and technocratic background are likely counterpoints to the appeal of Mélenchon, whose left-wing electoral alliance NUPES is currently on the rise in opinion polls.
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