Macron picks first woman prime minister

Macron picks first woman prime minister

French President Emmanuel Macron has picked Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne as his new prime minister as he prepares for the June elections, the second time in 30 years that a woman has been appointed.

Prime Minister Jean Castex handed in his resignation earlier in the day, paving the way for a cabinet overhaul after Macron's re-election in April.

Macron needs to show he has heard about the frustrations of voters expressed by the low turnout and big support for the far right and far left, and is looking for a premier with green and social policy credentials.

Such a profile could help counter the challenge of hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, who achieved a strong third place in the presidential election, giving him the chance to rally a coalition of leftist parties in the June 12 -- 19 parliamentary election.

Borne, 61, is the first woman to be named prime minister since Edith Cresson occupied the office briefly during the presidency of Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand in the early 1990s.

Borne was a soft-spoken career bureaucrat who served numerous Socialist Party ministers before joining Macron's government. She had a brief stint as environment minister in 2019 when she pushed through bicycle-friendly policies.

She took over the Labour MinistryLabour Ministry and oversaw negotiations with unions that resulted in a cut to unemployment benefits for some job seekers.

She watched unemployment drop to its lowest level in 15 years and youth unemployment to its lowest level in 40 years.

Borne's deep knowledge of the workings of the state will help Macron push through more difficult reforms. She will be tasked with watching France's muscular unions to oversee his most contested election pledge: raising retirement age.

She is a real workaholic, someone who can push on until 3 in the morning and be back at 7 a.m., said a former Borne staffer.

Borne, a discreet technocrat who has never run for public office, burnt her credentials as a steely negotiator against the trade unions during Macron's first term.

In 2017 she held out against weeks of strikes and demonstrations to end SNCF's pension and benefits system.