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34-year-old Gabriel Attal becomes France’s youngest prime minister

34-year-old Gabriel Attal, on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, became France’s youngest-ever prime minister as President Emmanuel Macron sought to revamp his government following a year of protests and criticism.

“The president of the republic appointed Mr. Gabriel Attal prime minister and tasked him with forming a government,” a presidential statement issued on Tuesday read.

Gabriel Attal rose to prominence as the government spokesman and education minister. He is France’s first openly gay prime minister.

A wider cabinet reshuffle is expected this week as Macron seeks to sharpen his team for the final three years of his presidency.

Attal’s predecessor, Elisabeth Borne, resigned on Monday following recent political turmoil over an immigration law that critics said made too many concessions to the far right.

Among other measures, it broadened the government’s ability to deport foreigners.

The government overhaul comes ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris and European parliament elections this summer, where Macron’s centrist forces risk defeat at the hands of the far-right under Marine Le Pen.

Confirming the appointment on X, Macron said he wanted the new prime minister to bring back the spirit of bold change from when he first won office on a wave of hope for radical reform in 2017.

“I know I can count on your energy and your commitment,” Macron said, adding that the new premier would act in line with the spirit of “excellence and audacity” of 2017.

In his first speech as prime minister on the steps of the Elysee presidential palace on Tuesday, Attal said the three priorities of his premiership would be employment, opening up the economy to simplify procedures for businesses, and focusing on the youth.

Standing beside Attal, Borne extended her best wishes to the new prime minister in her handover speech.

“As I pass the baton to you, I’m confident you have the determination and energy to lead the team,” she said.

Borne, 62, only the second woman to have served as French prime minister, ended her address on a personal note.

“In taking office, I sent a message to all young girls to fulfill their dreams and my career demonstrated that whatever your background everything is possible. I say to all women: hold fast, the future is in your hands,” she said.

Macron – who was France’s youngest-ever president when he came to power – is set to work with Attal to name a new government in the coming days, though some key ministers are expected to continue in their posts.

The 46-year-old French president has shifted rightward on security and migration issues since rising to power on a pro-business centrist platform in 2017, notably as far-right rival Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigration, anti-Islam National Rally party have gained political influence.

Acknowledging his youth, and the fact that he was named prime minister by the youngest Frenchman to become president, Attal said his appointment sent a “clear” signal of the nation’s “project of transformation”.

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