PARIS (AP) — Centrist politician Elisabeth Borne was appointed France's new prime minister on Monday to become the second woman to hold the post in the country.
Borne, 61, who was labor minister in the previous government, succeeds Jean Castex, whose resignation was expected after President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection last month.
Macron and Borne are expected to appoint the full government in the coming days.
As labor minister since 2020, Borne implemented changes that made it harder for jobless people to get benefits and reduced monthly payments for some unemployed people, prompting criticism from workers unions and from the left.
In 2018, as transport minister, Borne faced a major 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.
Borne, who has never held an elected office, was at the beginning of her career close to the traditional left. She notably worked as chief of staff to Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, and then as ecology minister under President Francois Hollande.
She then 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 first 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 in 1991-1992 under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand. Cresson, amid rising prices and high unemployment rate, became very unpopular and remained in office less than a year.
Earlier Monday, Castex came to the Elysee presidential palace to formally offer his resignation, which the president “accepted,” the Elysee said in a statement.
Macron thanked Castex and his team. “He took action with passion and dedication to serve France,” Macron tweeted.
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 cause by the virus and successive lockdowns.
In France, it's common for presidents to have more than one prime minister during their terms.
Borne's first mission will be to make sure that Macron’s centrist party and its allies do well in France's parliamentary election in June. The vote, scheduled for two rounds, will determine which group holds the majority of seats at the National Assembly, which has the final say over the Senate in France's law-making process.
Macron also promised a bill addressing the rising cost of living in France, where food and energy prices are surging. It will be prepared by his new government and is expected to be presented just after the parliamentary election.
If Macron’s party wins a majority in the Assembly, Borne will then need to ensure that pension changes promised by the president are put into law, including raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65. The proposed changes have been criticized by workers, unions and left-wing voters.
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.
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Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press