French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resigns

The move paves the way for a cabinet reshuffle as President Emmanuel Macron aims to give his presidency new momentum.

France's newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech during a handover ceremony in the courtyard of the Hotel Matignon, French prime minister's official residence, in Paris
Borne will act as caretaker prime minister until a new government is named [File: Ludovic Marin/Reuters]

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has resigned, the French presidency said, as President Emmanuel Macron prepared to unveil a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to give a new impetus to his presidency.

“Ms Elisabeth Borne today submitted the resignation of the government to the president, who accepted it,” the presidency said in a statement on Monday.

Macron thanked Borne for “work in the service of our nation that has been exemplary every day”, in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Borne, appointed in May 2022, was only the second female prime minister in French history. She will act as caretaker until a new government is named.

The president had fuelled speculation of a government reshuffle in December by promising a new political initiative. This came after the year 2023 was bookended by political crises prompted by highly contested reforms of the pension system and immigration laws.

The move comes just five months before European Parliament elections, with Eurosceptics expected to make strong gains at a time of widespread public discontent over surging living costs and the difficulties European governments face in curbing migration flows.

Opinion polls show Macron’s party is trailing that of far-right leader Marine Le Pen by around eight to 10 points ahead of the June vote.

What next?

Among those cited as potential candidates to replace Borne are 34-year-old Education Minister Gabriel Attal and 37-year-old Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu, either of whom would become France’s youngest-ever prime minister.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and former Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie have also been mentioned by pundits as possible options.

The change in prime minister will not necessarily lead to a shift in political tack, but rather signal a desire to move beyond the pension and immigration reforms and focus on new priorities, including hitting full employment.

Macron and his government, led by Borne, have struggled to deal with a more turbulent parliament to pass laws since losing their absolute majority shortly after Macron was re-elected for a second mandate in 2022.

The French president’s advisers say he has managed to pass the most challenging parts of his economic manifesto in the first year and a half of his second mandate, despite the lack of an absolute majority, and that future reforms, on education and euthanasia for instance, would be more consensual.

But Macron’s decision to use executive powers last year to pass a contested increase in the pension age to 64 triggered weeks of protests.

The reshuffle is likely to intensify the race in Macron’s camp to succeed him in the next presidential election in 2027, with Le Maire, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, and current Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin all seen as potential candidates.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies