France gets its youngest, openly gay prime minister, as Macron shakes up government

AP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 9 Jan 2024

Gabriel Attal was named Tuesday as France’s youngest-ever prime minister, and the first openly gay leader of the government, as President Emmanuel Macron seeks a fresh start for the rest of his term amid growing political pressure from the far right.

Then France s Secretary of State and Government s spokesperson Gabriel Attal leaves after a weekly c
FILE PHOTO : Then France s Secretary of State and Government s spokesperson Gabriel Attal leaves after a weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on May 4, 2022. AFP


Macron’s office announced the appointment in a statement. Attal, 34, rose to prominence as the government spokesman and education minister. 

His predecessor Elisabeth Borne resigned Monday following recent political turmoil over an immigration law that strengthens the government’s ability to deport foreigners.

Macron – who was France’s youngest-ever president when he came to power in 2017 -- is 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 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 have gained political influence.

Attal is the son of Yves Attal, a lawyer and film producer of Tunisian Jewish descent.

Former member of the Socialist Party, he was in a relationship with Stephane Sejourne, Macron's former political adviser, according to Reuters.

He joined Macron’s newly created political movement in 2016 and was government spokesperson from 2020 to 2022, a job that made him well-known to the French public. He was then named budget minister before being appointed in July as education minister, one of the most prestigious positions in the French government.

Attal's first move following his appointment as education minister last year was to ban the long robes in state schools, saying the garments worn mainly by Muslims were testing secularism in the schools.

He also launched a plan to experiment with uniforms in some public schools, as part of efforts to move the focus away from clothes and reduce school bullying.

Attal recently detailed on national television TF1 how he suffered bullying at middle school, including homophobic harassment.

French opinion polls show he was the most popular minister in Borne’s government.

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