Macron names Elisabeth Borne as new prime minister of France
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Macron names Elisabeth Borne as new prime minister of France

On Monday, centrist politician Elisabeth Borne was appointed France’s new prime minister, becoming only the second woman to hold the post.

Paris (France)- Borne, 61, was the labour minister in French President Emmanuel Macron’s previous government. He replaces Jean Castex, whose resignation was expected on Monday following Macron’s reelection to a second five-year term last month.

Borne spoke shortly after her appointment, expressing her feelings about being chosen for the highest office a woman has ever held in French political leadership.

“I’d like to dedicate this nomination to all the little girls, encouraging them to ‘Go after your dreams!'” “Nothing should derail the fight for women’s equality in our society,” she said.

Macron and Borne are expected to form a new French government within days.

Some left-wing politicians and their supporters criticised Macron’s choice of Borne. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a fiery far-left leader, claimed that her appointment marked “a new season of social and ecological mistreatment,” claiming that her legacy amounted to “a reduction in the allowances of 1 million unemployed people.”

Borne’s first task will be to ensure that Macron’s centrist party and its allies do well in the June parliamentary election in France. The two-round vote will determine which party holds the majority of seats in France’s National Assembly, which has the final say over the Senate in the country’s legislative process.

Macron also promised a bill to address rising living costs in France, where skyrocketing food and energy prices. His new government will prepare it and present it shortly after the parliamentary election.

Suppose Macron’s party wins a majority in the Assembly. In that case, Borne will be responsible for enacting the pension changes promised by the president, such as raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65. Workers, unions, and left-wing voters have all criticised the proposed changes.

Macron also promised that the new prime minister would be directly in charge of “green planning,” seeking to accelerate France’s implementation of climate-related policies. Macron vowed to go “twice as fast” in his second term to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Borne has a mixed track record, prompting criticism from workers, unions and left-wing voters. As labour minister since 2020, she implemented changes making it harder for jobless people to get benefits and reduced monthly payments for some unemployed people.

In 2018, as France’s transport minister, she faced a significant strike from the SNCF railway company against plans to open the train network to competition and end newly-hired employees’ right to retain jobs and benefits for life. She ultimately managed to pass the bill.

Yet Borne’s rise to power has been formidable, despite never having held elected office. Closer to France’s traditional left at the beginning of her career, she worked as chief of staff to then-Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal under Socialist French President Francois Hollande.

She became CEO in 2015 of the state-owned transport company RATP, which operates the Paris metro.

She joined Macron’s centrist party in 2017. She was transport minister and then minister of ecological transition in Macron’s first government.

Borne is the second woman to hold the position of prime minister in the country after Edith Cresson, who served from 1991-to 1992 under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand. Despite rising prices and high unemployment, Cresson became very unpopular and remained in office for less than a year.

Earlier Monday, Castex came to the Elysee presidential palace to formally offer his resignation, which Macron accepted. In a tweet, Macron thanked Castex and his team, saying “he took action with passion and dedication to serve France.”

Castex had succeeded Edouard Philippe in July 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He sought to support businesses and revive France’s economy following the damage caused by the virus and successive pandemic lockdowns.

In France, it’s common for presidents to have more than one prime minister during their terms.

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