Macron names first French female PM in three decades

Elisabeth Borne, 61, is seen as an able technocrat who can negotiate prudently with unions.

Elisabeth Borne, 61, is seen as an able technocrat who can negotiate prudently with unions.

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, May 16, 2022, named Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne as Prime Minister to lead his ambitious reform plans, the first woman to head the French government in over 30 years.

Outgoing French Prime Minister Jean Castex earlier handed his resignation to the President, part of a widely expected reshuffle to make way for a new government in the wake of Mr. Macron’s re-election in April.

The last woman premier, Edith Cresson, briefly headed the Cabinet from May 1991 to April 1992 under president Francois Mitterrand.

Ending weeks of speculation, the Elysee confirmed Mr. Borne’s nomination in a statement and she then headed to the Matignon residence of the premier in Paris for the handover with Castex.

The departure of Mr. Castex, who was a surprise choice for the role in 2020, enables Mr. Macron to reshape the Cabinet ahead of crucial parliamentary polls in June. The new government under Ms. Borne is expected to be announced in the next days.

The centrist Macron will need a legislative majority to push through his domestic agenda following his re-election, with a new left-wing alliance and the far-right threatening to block his programme.

Speculation has been rife in recent weeks about Mr. Castex’s replacement, with Mr. Macron indicating he wanted a woman with left-wing and environmental credentials.

Those criteria reflect his desire to focus on schools and health in the early part of his second term, as well as the climate crisis which he has promised to prioritise.

Ms. Borne, 61, is seen as an able technocrat who can negotiate prudently with unions, as the President embarks on a new package of social reforms that notably include a rise in the retirement age which risks sparking protests.

A French presidential official, who asked not to be named, described Ms. Borne as a woman of “conviction, action and realisation,” noting her “capacity to carry out reforms.”

“It was high time there was another woman,” Ms. Cresson, who knows Ms. Borne personally, told BFM-TV.

“She is a remarkable person, with great experience in the public and private sectors… She’s a very good choice because she’s a remarkable person, not because she’s a woman,” she added.

She expressed amazement that it had taken France — which has never had a female head of state — so long to have another woman Prime Minister.

“France is very behind — not the French population but the political class,” added Ms. Cresson, who was the target of numerous sexist attacks during her time in office.

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