She is the first female prime minister in more than 30 years. And one that comes from the left-wing political camp. Elisabeth Borne worked for the socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin and for the socialist environment minister Ségolène Royale and, as a former minister for ecological transformation, currently has very important competencies in environmental and climate policy.
In France, the Prime Minister is always appointed by the President to conduct the affairs of government. In practice, however, the directly elected President usually has the last word. After his re-election, Emmanuel Macron wanted a woman with an ecological and social profile, also to send a signal to the left-wing electorate. Elisabeth Borne, most recently Minister of Labor, is the ideal person to start his second term in office. Or?
Macron has a penchant for big words and sometimes raises the expectations placed on him. In the inaugural speech of his second term, he said that the French people had not renewed the mandate that was expiring, but had “entrusted a new mandate to a new President”. Already during the election campaign he had announced a “new method” for his politics.
But although the new prime minister meets many of the criteria sought in advance, she is not sending out a strong signal of renewal. With her, Macron is banking on continuity and security, which is important in view of the parliamentary elections in June.
Borne has been at his side since Macron’s first election in 2017 and has held three different positions as minister. She is considered a loyal politician who meticulously familiarizes herself with the issues entrusted to her. As Minister of Transport, she pushed through the reform of the state railway SNCF, which was accompanied by violent strikes, and as Minister of Labor, the reform of unemployment insurance.
This is a plus point for the president, who wants to renew the pension system against strong opposition. For the political opposition, however, this offers a large target for attack. As expected, she has reacted with verbal attacks since the decision became known on Monday afternoon.
Left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote on Twitter that Borne stands for the reduction in unemployment benefits for one million unemployed, the postponement of the nuclear phase-out by ten years and is for retirement at 65. “Here’s to a new season of social abuse,” he added. His strategy: criticize Borne’s and Macron’s policies equally. Mélenchon is fighting for a parliamentary majority for his left alliance and dreams of becoming prime minister himself.
With the election of Borne, the right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen attested to Macron’s “inability to bring people together and the will to continue his policy of contempt, state dismantling and social cuts”.
In addition to Borne’s close proximity to Macron, the symbolic effect of her appointment is likely to be less because the politician may not have been the person he wanted. She has been traded as a promising candidate since the presidential election three weeks ago. However, Macron took an unusually long time to make the decision. In any case, Macron himself thwarted his desire to quickly bring a breath of fresh air.
The upcoming parliamentary elections at the beginning of June are now the greatest challenge for the new Prime Minister Borne. So far, she has stood out as a hard-working civil servant who has never had to face an election by the population. She is not known as a convincing speaker. As Macron’s prime minister, however, she must help the president achieve a parliamentary majority in June and set priorities in the election campaign in the weeks leading up to the first ballot on June 12.
This time she is running as a candidate herself in the northern French department of Calvados. She must win there to remain prime minister. And the parliamentary majority for Macron’s party alliance is also a prerequisite for the continuation of their new activity. Elisabeth Borne is therefore initially only prime minister on probation.