France Has First Female Prime Minister in 30 Years

Elisabeth Borne was appointed PM on Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 17, 2022 12:00 AM CDT
France Has First Female Prime Minister in 30 Years
French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Elisabeth Borne speaks on the coronavirus measures after the weekly cabinet meeting during a press conference at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, Thursday, May 7, 2020.   (Christophe Archambault/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Centrist politician Elisabeth Borne was appointed France’s new prime minister on Monday, becoming only the second woman in history to hold the post, the AP reports. Borne, 61, the labor minister in French President Emmanuel Macron's previous government, succeeds Jean Castex, whose resignation on Monday was expected after Macron’s reelection last month to a second five-year term. Borne spoke soon after her appointment, noting the emotions she felt at being selected for the highest office a woman has ever held in French political leadership. “I would like to dedicate this nomination to all the little girls by telling them ‘Go after your dreams!’ Nothing should stop the fight for the place of women in our society,” she said.

Macron and Borne are expected to appoint a new French government in the coming days. Macron's choice of Borne was criticized by some left-wing politicians and their supporters. Firebrand far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said her appointment marks “a new season of social and ecological mistreatment,” claiming on Twitter that her legacy amounted to “a reduction in the allowances of 1 million unemployed people.” Borne has a mixed track record, prompting criticism from workers and unions as well. As labor 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 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. Yet Borne’s rise to power has been formidable, despite never having held elected office. She 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, became very unpopular and remained in office less than a year.

(More France stories.)

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