Madame la Première Ministre

Madame la Première Ministre

By Louise Peloquin

On May 16th, Emmanuel Macron named Élisabeth Borne Prime Minister. In 1991, under François Mitterrand, Édith Cresson was the first woman to hold the job. The Élysée Palace put out a late afternoon communiqué: “this is the choice of competence at the service of France… a woman of conviction, action and accomplishment.”

The Parisian-born, 61-year-old engineer with degrees from the country’s most famous institutions of higher education – “Polytechnique” for example – is a familiar face. A former member of the Socialist party, she enlisted in Macron’s “La République en Marche”, now known as “Renaissance”, when she joined his first administration in 2017 as Minister of Transport. She went on to serve as Minister of Ecological Transition in 2019 and then Minister of Labor, Employment and Economic Inclusion from 2020 to 2022. Some pundits have pointed out that the President-elect was certainly not taking any risks by placing her at the starting block of his second term.

Right-wing Marine Le Pen of the “Rassemblement National”, who lost the election to Macron for the second time on April 24th, tweeted: “By naming Élisabeth Borne as Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron demonstrates his incapacity to assemble (the French people) and the will to pursue his policy of scorn…of social havoc.…”

On his account, “La France Insoumise” left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melanchon posted: “(this is) the continuation of the first mandate… a new season of ideological mistreatment.”

Asked for their take on the nomination, people in Paris streets offered a variety of comments from “great choice” to “I hope she’s up to par” to “she isn’t a symbol of anything… it’s pure demagogy” to “what’s the difference?”

Addressing his new PM, the President tweeted: “Madame la Première Ministre, Ecology, health, education, full-employment, democratic renaissance, Europe and security: together, with the new government, we shall continue to act tirelessly for the French people.”

Indeed, Madame la Première Ministre is now busy in her Hôtel Matignon residence drawing up the list of the many ministers to be announced in a few days.

When leaving the official PM residence in Paris’s chic 7th arrondissement to his successor, Jean Castex, at the post since July 2020, enumerated Élisabeth Borne’s many qualities before wishing her “bonne chance” (good luck). Among these: “righteousness, integrity, competence, voluntarism.”

The new Prime Minister responded “I am touched” before mentioning some of the challenges ahead – “the international situation“, “climate and ecological issues”, “purchasing power.” She added “I cannot prevent myself from thinking of the first woman in this post, Édith Cresson.” Echoing Kamala Harris, she concluded – “I would like to dedicate this nomination to all little girls…. Go to the end of your dreams. Nothing should slow down the battle for the place of women in society.”

Thirty-one years ago, Édith Cresson was on the job for eleven months. How long will Élisabeth Borne remain at Matignon?