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Government: Young Prime Minister Attal is not helping Macron out of trouble

Government: Young Prime Minister Attal is not helping Macron out of trouble

As the new French Prime Minister, the whiz kid Gabriel Attal was supposed to bring momentum to President Macron’s faltering second term in office. His 100-day record is subdued.

Suddenly billions are missing from France’s national budget, President Emmanuel Macron’s government is limping and right-wing populist Marine Le Pen’s party is worryingly far ahead in polls ahead of the European elections. The liberation that Macron had hoped for at the beginning of January by appointing the young, dynamic Gabriel Attal (35) as Prime Minister has not yet been achieved. While Macron is pushing the agenda on the international stage with the push for ground troops in Ukraine, he is increasingly in a tight spot at home.

Neither did the president succeed in giving new dynamism to his second term in office by appointing Attal. His plan to use the eloquent former government spokesman Attal to stand up to the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen before the European elections still worked. 100 days after taking office, Attal has had to work on unpopular austerity measures because France’s public finances are in dire straits.

Successful crisis manager – not when there is opposition

With his hands-on nature, Attal proved himself to be a successful crisis manager right from the start. He managed to contain a wave of farmers’ protests that threatened France. While the tractors rolled in long columns towards Paris, Attal visited farmers in the provinces to have their problems explained to him and promptly announced government aid from a farmyard, while his speech manuscript was lying on a bale of straw for media attention. Agricultural aid totaling 400 million euros, which was quickly promised, persuaded the farmers to turn back.

Since Attal has the reputation of being able to discuss the matter with representatives of other political camps, the hope was that he could bring movement back to the deadlock in the National Assembly. Macron’s camp has not had an absolute majority there for a year and a half and many government projects are an exhausting struggle, because compromises and coalitions are less common in French politics than in Germany.

However, Attal’s calls for the opposition to cooperate remained as unsuccessful as his predecessor Élisabeth Borne’s long struggle for reliable alliances in parliament. There are no longer any prospects of cooperation with the conservative Républicains, which the conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy also supported. The head of the Républicains, Éric Ciotti, recently even threatened Attal with a vote of no confidence.

The right-wing nationalist RN’s lead is increasing

Since Attal took office, the lead of the right-wing national Rassemblement National (RN) in surveys for the European elections has increased even further. The original hope was that Attal would be able to counter the eloquent RN leader Jordan Bardella more than the previous prime minister was able to do.

According to an Ipsos poll a few days ago, the RN has 32 percent approval, the government camp has 16 percent and a socialist alliance has 13 percent. If this balance of power were to be confirmed in the election at the beginning of June, it would have massive implications for the remainder of Macron’s term in office.

The government has really started to sweat because of the large budget holes that need to be filled. The assumptions underlying the budget were all too rosy. The deficit was larger than expected last year and, as recently became clear, things are not looking good for the current year either.

On Wednesday, the High Council for Public Finance described the government’s plans to once again adhere to the EU deficit limit of three percent from 2027 as lacking credibility and incoherence. What is needed is a drastic austerity course with reduced public spending, and France’s Court of Auditors also warned of the same.

Is Attal causing discontent in strike-happy France?

Attal is already working on unpopular short-term austerity measures, such as a cut in unemployment benefits and cuts in sick pay, in order to deal with the emergency without raising taxes. But such steps could cause considerable resentment in strike-happy France, which does not bode well in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

In order to take stock of his work and chart the future course, Attal announced that he would give a speech in the Parisian community of Viry-Châtillon today, his 100th day in office. At the beginning of April, a 15-year-old was beaten to death by a group of young men, and a wave of similar acts of violence are currently shaking France. Accompanied by the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice, Attal wants to talk about the topic of authority as the heart of the French Republic.

Source: Stern

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