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France’s Prime Minister Resigns Ahead of Cabinet Reshuffle

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne of France resigned on Monday ahead of a widely expected cabinet reshuffle by President Emmanuel Macron, as he attempts to inject new energy into his presidency at the start of a year of major events in France, including European Parliamentary elections and the Summer Olympics in Paris.

Ms. Borne, 62, was appointed as prime minister shortly after Mr. Macron’s election to a second term in May 2022, and is only the second woman to occupy that position.

But her time in office has been marked by political and social unrest — from anger in the streets and in Parliament over raising the retirement age to riots over the police shooting of a teenager — and Mr. Macron appeared increasingly intent on appointing a fresh face.

Mr. Macron’s office said he had accepted Ms. Borne’s resignation offer, little more than a formality given his widely reported desire to replace her. Ms. Borne will continue to handle “current affairs” until a new cabinet is appointed, the office said in a statement, without saying when that might happen or who might replace her.

“You carried out our project with the courage, commitment and determination of stateswomen, “Mr. Macron said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Prime ministers play an important role in France. Under the Constitution, it is through their leadership that the government “determines and conducts the nation’s policies,” and they oversee much of the day-to-day running of the country.

But presidents occupy a much more powerful office, and the government’s agenda is usually theirs. France’s presidents are elected directly by a popular vote every five years, and they often view their prime ministers as close collaborators or subordinates, not autonomous policymakers.

Ms. Borne and President Emmanuel Macron in June.Credit…Pool photo by Mohammed Badra

A hard-working technocrat and daughter of an Auschwitz survivor who rarely talked about her personal life, Ms. Borne loyally and dutifully carried out Mr. Macron’s agenda. She spent 20 months on the job, twice as much as Édith Cresson, the only other woman to hold the position, from May 1991 to April 1992, and she shepherded dozens of Mr. Macron’s bills through Parliament.

But Ms. Borne was forced to work with a fractured lower house of Parliament, where Mr. Macron’s centrist alliance does not control an absolute majority, causing serious headaches for his policy ambitions.

Ms. Borne was nicknamed “Madame 49.3” in the French media in reference to the constitutional tool that she used on more than 20 occasions during her time in office to pass bills in the lower house without a vote — mainly budget measures, but most notably a widely unpopular pension overhaul.

More recently, Ms. Borne had to compromise with the right on a tough immigration law that rankled some among Mr. Macron’s own government and led one minister to resign.

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