xi's moments
Home | Europe

France's government takes step to the right

President Macron and new PM unveil Cabinet with strong Sarkozy influence

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-01-15 09:51

Newly appointed Prime minister Gabriel Attal listens to the speech of outgoing Prime minister Elisabeth Borne during the handover ceremony at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, on Jan 9, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

France's charismatic new prime minister will lead a Cabinet that has edged to the right, with the reemergence in a reshuffle of several key figures from the government of former rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thirty-four-year-old Gabriel Attal, who President Emmanuel Macron named as prime minister on Jan 9 after the resignation of Elisabeth Borne, will still have several major players from Borne's Cabinet to call upon, but new members, including Stephane Sejourne as minister for foreign affairs and veteran Cabinet member Rachida Dati as culture minister, give the hitherto centrist government a rightwing feel.

Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist party, said the government, which had previously tried to appeal to both left-wing and rightwing voters, now looks set on heading off the threat from the far-right by resurrecting "Sarkozy's dinosaurs" and moving to the right itself.

The Liberation newspaper also pointed out the Sarkozy influence after Thursday's reshuffle, with the headline "The Sarko connection".

Socialist party lawmaker Boris Vallaud told The Guardian newspaper Macron had followed up on the government's hardline overhaul of France's immigration system, which many lawmakers said was suggestive of the ruling Renaissance party drifting to the right, by confirming it with the reshuffle.

Attal countered by telling the TF1 television channel he simply favors people who can get things done.

"What I want is action, action, action" and "results, results, results", he said.

The new Cabinet surrounding Attal, France's youngest ever prime minister and its first openly gay leader, is, however, mainly about ensuring Macron withstands the challenge from the far-right in European elections on June 9.

Macron, who was vilified last year during violent protests against his pension reforms, reportedly said at the new Cabinet's first meeting he wants "quick results" and is not looking for "managers" but "revolutionaries".

"I don't want ministers who administer, I want ministers who act," AFP quoted him as saying.

The Guardian newspaper noted that eight of 14 key ministers have backgrounds in former president Sarkozy's The Republicans party. Dati, who served as justice minister under Sarkozy between 2007 and 2009, is joined by Catherine Vautrin, who served under former rightwing president Jacques Chirac, and Emmanuel Moulin, a former adviser to Sarkozy, who is the new prime minister's chief of staff .

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who also served in Sarkozy's government but who was in Borne's Cabinet too, hung onto his job, as did Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister.

Margot Faraci, an expert on global leadership who advises banks on leadership trends, told The Express newspaper Macron essentially appointed Attal because his lack of a parliamentary majority, his dwindling popularity, and difficulty connecting with voters left him desperate.

"It's common for politicians to arrive on a wave of popularity and find themselves in unpopular territory as the reality of governing sets in," she said, noting that Macron's appointment of Attal was "an exercise in supreme pragmatism" because he will "piggyback on Attal's popularity and give himself the best chance of both increasing his own popularity now and staying in power in the next (presidential) election" in 2027.

Macron's declining popularity has come as Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party has flourished. The French people will watch to see if Macron's Renaissance party offers a real alternative to Le Pen, and France's allies will want to see whether France comes back into alignment with NATO, the US and the UK, or becomes more isolationist.

The Financial Times said it will also be interesting to see whether Macron will be able to share the political limelight with his ambitious new protege.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349