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8 Jan, 2024 20:18

French government shake-up expected after shock resignation

Elisabeth Borne has quit as prime minister, clearing the way for President Emmanuel Macron to pick new cabinet members
French government shake-up expected after shock resignation

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has stepped down, setting the stage for President Emmanuel Macron to form a new government amid a public uproar over pension reforms and other controversial policies.

Borne, who took office as the second female prime minister in France’s history in May 2022, submitted her resignation to Macron on Monday. She will remain in her position to handle “current affairs” until a new cabinet is formed, according to a government statement.

Macron thanked Borne for her service, saying she had “implemented our project with the courage, commitment and determination of a stateswoman.” However, that project hasn’t gone over well with many ordinary French citizens, who launched massive protests and strikes over the pension reforms, which included an increase in the country’s retirement age to 64 from 62.

Macron’s ruling party also faces public outrage over soaring inflation and failures to curb illegal immigration. Heading into France’s EU parliament elections in June, Macron’s Renaissance party is trailing Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party by ten percentage points, according to the latest poll data. Macron won a second term by defeating Le Pen in France’s April 2022 presidential election.

Borne reportedly acknowledged in her resignation letter that it wasn’t her idea to quit. She noted that she had worked hard to push through key changes, including new pension and immigration laws, despite the failure of Macron’s coalition to secure a majority of seats in the French Parliament. She added that it was “more necessary than ever” to continue pursuing reforms.

As PM, Borne frequently deployed a controversial constitutional provision called the 49:3 clause in order to force the passage of new laws without parliamentary votes. Mathilde Panot, who heads the France Unbowed party, accused Borne of leaving behind a “badly damaged democracy.” She added, “No matter who the monarch replaces her with, we demand a vote of confidence in parliament.”

Under France’s system of government, the president sets policies and the prime minister oversees the day-to-day management of the government. French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu and Education Minister Gabriel Attal are reportedly among the top candidates to succeed Borne as prime minister.

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