Gabriel Attal, a potential successor to Macron?

 /  April 8, 2024, 12:50 p.m.

Gabriel Attal

Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images/File

Gabriel Attal in January 2024, after French President Emmanuel Macron nominated him for Prime Minister

Emmanuel Macron’s appointment of Gabriel Attal for France’s Prime Minister in January 2024 marked several firsts. Attal is both the first openly queer person and, at 34 years old, the youngest to ever attain the role. His inexperience has been a concern for many, especially as he has only been directly involved in politics for eight years. Macron’s risky choice surprised France’s political allies and seemingly armed his politically-right enemies with more ammunition to attack his decisions. However, Attal has quickly proven himself to be a capable politician whose nomination may soon prove a shrewd move by Macron to find his political successor as leader of the Renaissance party—and perhaps as the next President of France in 2027.

Macron’s appointment of Attal formed part of his response to the growing popularity of the far-right party, the National Rally. Despite Macron’s victory over former leader Marine Le Pen in successive presidential elections, National Rally has a new, charismatic, and young president in Jordan Bardella. Furthermore, by capitalizing on discontent directed towards Macron on issues from migration to employment reform, the National Rally rose to the most popular party in France in polls regarding parliamentary election voting intention in late 2023. Therefore, the National Rally began to pose a significant threat to the Renaissance and the centrist parties of France.

Furthermore, there will be a Macron-shaped hole in the centrist coalition of French politics by 2027. Macron is constitutionally not allowed to run for a third term in office in the next presidential elections. The fact that he single-handedly founded his party, Renaissance, means that there are questions about its future, both regarding successors and even the future existence of the organization itself. This uncertainty about the future provided yet more fuel to the fire of the National Rally and increased their hopes for what would be an unprecedented victory in 2027. Therefore, Macron has begun to take action and find a suitable successor to fend off the RN, a motive perhaps connected to his appointment of Attal. 

Attal’s nomination move was also a reward for his years of loyal service to Macron. Indeed, Attal has served in his government since 2018 in roles ranging from government spokesman to, most recently, education minister. Media outlets consider him a ‘rising star’ on his way to the center of French politics. Attal is also young and rose through the political ranks quickly, success especially valued by Macron who was elected president of France at the age of 39. Therefore, Attal provides the centrist coalition in France with a direct response to the National Rally’s Jordan Bardella, also young at 28. 

Thus far, Attal proved a successful appointment. Just weeks after assuming office, he helped to negotiate a partial end to the long-running farmers' strike within the country. As of February, he had a 47% approval rating, a figure higher than both Macron and Marine Le Pen. Further, while education minister, Attal passed a reform banning the abaya, an Islamic robe often worn by women, in French public schools. This measure likely appealed to conservative-minded French voters aligned with the National Rally due to their relative anti-Islam stance. Thus, Attal’s promotion to higher office perhaps recharacterized Macron’s government as more attractive to these voters.

Of course, there are other potential successors to Macron as the next Renaissance leader such as Bruno Le Maire, the minister for the economy and finance, and Edouard Phillipe, the former Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Macron’s public show of support to Attal as of late as well as his high approval ratings bodes well for Attal’s political future. A Renaissance victory in 2027, with Attal at the helm or not, would likely establish the party, a mere eleven years after its founding, as a permanent fixture of the French political system. As the beginning of the campaigning for the 2027 election comes closer, Attal is certainly one to watch.

The image used in this article was originally created by Ludovic Marin and is under Getty Image's Rights-Managed license. It has been unaltered from its original form, which can be found here

Hassan Sachee


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