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France's newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech during a handover ceremony in the courtyard of the Hotel Matignon, French Prime ministers' official residence, in Paris on May 16, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

Who is Elisabeth Borne, France’s new Prime Minister?

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron named Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne as his new prime minister as he prepares for legislative elections in June — just the second woman to hold the position in the last 30 years.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Jean Castex resigned, paving the way for a cabinet reshuffle following Macron’s re-election in April.

Macron has been aiming for a prime minister with green and social policy credentials, as he needs to demonstrate that he is aware of voter struggles, as evidenced by low turnout and strong support for right and left wing.

A profile like this could aid in preventing the challenge mounted by hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the presidential election and was able to rally a broad coalition of left-leaning parties in the June 12-19 parliamentary election.

Borne, 61, will be the first woman to be named prime minister since Edith Cresson briefly held the position during Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand’s presidency in the early 1990s.

“It must have been nearly impossible to fill the spot with another woman, and I believe Mrs Borne is an extraordinary woman with significant experience…

I believe it is an excellent choice “Cresson stated to BFM television.

Borne, a soft-spoken career bureaucrat who worked for several Socialist Party ministers before joining Macron’s government, had a brief stint as environment minister in 2019 when she pushed for bike-friendly policies.

She then took over the Labour Ministry, where she oversaw union negotiations that resulted in a reduction in unemployment benefits for some job seekers.

Under her leadership, unemployment fell to its lowest point in 15 years, and youth unemployment fell to its lowest point in 40 years.

Borne’s intimate knowledge of the workings of the state will aid Macron in implementing more difficult reforms. She will be tasked with confronting France’s powerful unions in order to oversee his most contentious election pledge: raising the retirement age.

“Mrs. Borne opposes raising the minimum wage and prefers to retire at the age of 65. “A new season of social injustice has begun.” Melenchon released a statement on Twitter.
Borne, a quiet technocrat who has never run for public office, honed her skills as a tough negotiator with trade unions during Macron’s first term.

In 2017, as transport minister, she resisted weeks of strikes and protests to end a generous pension and benefits system for SNCF railway workers.

“She is a genuine hard worker, one that can work until 3 a.m. and then return later at 7 a.m.,” said a former Borne employee.