Why Elisabeth Borne stepped down as France’s Prime minister
Elisabeth Borne- a women who defied expectation, shattered glass ceiling and spoke her mind to become the second-ever prime minister of France. But in just 20 months residing at Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of French PM, Elisabeth Borne has resigned.
Now, the wind of change has swept across France. The nation is at the forefront of political reshuffle. Gabriel Attal takes the place of Elisabeth Borne to stand as the youngest Prime minister of modern French history.
In this article, we will discuss about the reasons which led to Elisabeth Borne’s resignation.
The reasons for Elisabeth Borne’s resignation:
Élisabeth Borne wasn't pushed out by one big wave, but by a whole storm brewing for months. Her boat was filled with leaks from all the sides which started taking on water early. The leaks were in the form of laser-thin majority in the parliament and public discontent.
She started her journey with her Centre-right government lacking a majority in the parliament, which means they often needed to use Article 49.3 to push through legislations. Article 49.3 is a controversial provision in the French Constitution that allows the government to bypass a vote on a bill in the National Assembly. It does not depend on the absolute majority of members; rather is secures the confidence of the majority of MPs who are present and voting.
Borne used this power 12 times during her time in the parliament, earning her the nickname "Madame 49.3. She pushed through majority of controversial bills through this tactic only, including immigration bill and unpopular pension overhaul reform.
This tactic faced criticism from ruling party and the opposition alike. Opposition claimed Borne’s move as undemocratic, while people within her own party considered that the frequent use of article 49.3 undermined their credibility and dented government’s image.
Frequent use of Article 49.3 also fueled public discontent- particularly among groups opposed to specific bills pushed through this way. It created a perception of arrogance and disregard for the public opinion.
Despite taking a hit, majority of pushed laws did not serve well for the government. The pension reform, which increased the retirement age from 62 to 64 years, faced strong criticism from the public. She was seen as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people and willing to push through unpopular policies despite strong opposition.
As the cost of living crises crippled France, Borne’s perceived inability to alleviate the burden on public eroded her public image. Turning blind eye of environmental issues, such as construction of new airport or the extending the existing gas pipeline further fuelled the fire.
The immigration law was the recent addition to the list. The "Law for Controlling Immigration, Staying in France and Integration" passed in December 2023 ignited a firestorm of debate.
The stringent law makes it more difficult for migrants to obtain residence permits and citizenship, with stricter language and integration requirements. The new law has stricter French language proficiency requirements (B1 level instead of A1 for residence permit renewals), limited access to the social security and welfare benefits for non-citizens, (Non-citizens must wait 5 years (previously 3) for full access to social security and welfare benefits), and non-inclusion of children of migrants in family reunification unless they are already in France.
Her tenure as PM was not void of positive changes. On the social front, Borne championed advancements like extending paid parental leave for fathers from 11 days to 28 days, boosting the minimum wage, and bolstering healthcare investments.
On the education front, increased funding improved school infrastructure, teacher training, and educational programs in France. She also expanded apprenticeship programs and invested in vocational training for the workshops.
But these positives couldn’t balance all the negatives, and she had to resign after French President, Emmanuel Macron, requested her to step down to appoint a new Prime minister. In place of the Borne, Macron has appointed Gabriel Attal, who is regarded as ‘Emmanuel Macron of next generation’.
The young minister is 34 years old and has served as French Education minister before becoming the Prime Minister.
Attal’s vision for France:
Gabriel Attal, the youngest Prime Minister of modern French history and the first openly-gay prime minister, has pledged to tackle pressing economic concerns, such as inflation and purchasing power.
Under the new leadership, inflation will be combated by targeted assistance for low-income households, as well as prospective energy and tax modifications. The wages and pensions are also rising, but firms may expect streamlined administration and targeted investments in digitization and green technologies.
With ambitious ambitions and increased investments in green technologies, the shift to renewable energy is accelerated. Social assistance programmes, healthcare access, and critical services will also be prioritized. Another pillar of Attal's mission is to encourage civic involvement and citizen participation in decision-making.
While the political prowess of Gabriel Attal is yet to be tested in the European Parliament election in June this year, Elisabeth stood as a strong and determined president, who focused on economic development of France. However, due to her inability to sway opposition and her own party, her ambitious dreams for France comes to a standstill.