Metro Weekly

Gabriel Attal is France’s First Out Gay Prime Minister

A rising star in France's centrist Renaissance Party, Attal could be a candidate for the presidency in 2027.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – Photo: Conseil de l’Union Européenne

Gabriel Attal, a 34-year-old French politician, has been named the country’s new prime minister by President Emmanuel Macron. He is the youngest-ever prime minister and the first out gay man to serve in the post.

A rising star in Macron’s Renaissance Party, Attal has served as minister of education and national youth. During his tenure, he enacted a ban on the abaya and other religious garments in French public schools –drawing anger from conservative Muslims, who constitute a small but vocal minority in the country — as well as leftists who saw the ban as discriminatory and an infringement on civil liberties and freedoms. 

As education minister, he worked to combat bullying in schools, noting, during a recent television appearance, that he was bullied in middle school by a former classmate and targeted by online harassment and impersonation campaigns.

Attal said the classmate — later identified by others as Juan Branco, a former lawyer for Julian Assange — shamed him on a blog created to rate classmates’ physiques, also posting derogatory slurs about Attal’s sexuality on the website.

Branco had previously outed Attal in a book he wrote in 2018. He claimed Attal had “slept his way to the top” by entering a civil partnership with Macron’s political advisor, Stéphane Séjourné, the general secretary of the Renaissance Party and a member of the European Parliament. Attal and Séjourné have reportedly broken off their relationship, according to Politico.

Like Macron, Attal was aligned with the center-left Socialist Party before joining the more centrist Renaissance Party. Similarly, his politics often shift on various issues, as he’ll take the more conservative approach on some while staking out a more liberal position on others, reports CNN

Attal served as the French government spokesman during the pandemic, immediately boosting his public profile. During Macron’s second term, he was appointed minister of public works and public accounts before becoming education minister.

“My aim will be to keep control of our destiny and unleash our French potential,” Attal said following his appointment.

Attal replaces Elisabeth Borne, who resigned on Monday after a tumultuous 20-month tenure, during which she pushed through unpopular pension reforms and immigration legislation and oversaw civil unrest following riots in response to the police shooting of a teenager of Algerian and Moroccan descent. 

As prime minister, Attal will be tasked with forming a new government and shepherding through legislation that advances the party’s agenda — an especially difficult challenge, given that the Renaissance Party no longer holds the majority in parliament. That means he’ll have to either negotiate with right- or left-wing blocs to pass critical legislation, or use parliamentary procedures to circumvent floor votes in the National Assembly — though overusing that power was a chief criticism levied against his predecessor.

Macron and others in his party hope that Attal’s ascension can help bolster the party’s image, as opinion polls show him to be one of the more well-liked members within Macron’s government.

With Macron term-limited, and unable to run for a third term in 2027, he could potentially become a future presidential candidate. 

Macron’s government overall is unpopular, and the party is in a potentially tenuous position ahead of this year’s European elections on June 9.

Meanwhile, the far-right National Rally group, led by Trump-like figurehead Marine Le Pen, is enjoying a surge in support and continues to hammer Macron’s government in the hope of exploiting that recent wave of popularity and riding it to victory in the upcoming elections.

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