Saturday 24 March 2018

Brigitte Macron: 200,000 people sign petition against the French President making his wife the 'First Lady'

French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte. Photo: AP
French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte. Photo: AP

Narjas Zatat

Almost 200,000 people have signed a petition to prevent Brigitte Macron, wife of the French President, from being given the official position of "First Lady".

The move to block Ms Macron from taking up a formal role at the Élysée Palace was triggered by Emmanuel Macron's decision to push forward with controversial "morality" laws, which would ban parliamentarians from employing family members, in an effort to tackle corruption.

The role of First Lady does not currently exist in the French constitution, and any expenses the President’s wife incurs are taken from the general budget for the Élysée.

Although Ms Macron will not be paid for the role, she would likely receive an office, additional staff and a separate budget.

“When you’re elected president of the Republic, you live with someone, you give your days and nights, you give your public life and your private life,” Mr Macron told French broadcaster TF1.

“So the person who lives with you must have a role and be recognised in that role.”

The decision is particularly controversial because of cuts the President has already proposed to housing benefits and military spending.

Last month saw the biggest decline in popularity for a French president since Jacques Chirac in 1995.

Actor and author Thierry Paul Valette launched the petition on, which had gained 198,700 supporters by Monday morning.

He wrote: “There is no reason for the wife of the head of state to get a budget out of public funds. Brigitte Macron currently has a team of two or three employees, as well as two secretaries and two security guards. That is enough.

“If this issue is to be decided, it must be done in the context of a referendum. Moreover, more than 65 per cent of the French do not favour the creation of a special status for Brigitte Macron.”

Mr Valette added that the creation of the petition was not designed to personally attack Ms Macron: “We fiercely denounce all sexist attacks against Brigitte Macron and we do not question her skills.

“However, in a period of moralisation in French politics, when a decree was passed prohibiting members from employing members of their family…we cannot decently endorse the initiative of a specific statue to the wife of President Macron.”

In July, the President vowed to “transform” France and give citizens more power in petitioning to get important topics discussed in parliament.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, had a team of eight advisers, costing taxpayers a total of €437,376 a year.

As of 30 June, there are four employees in the US Executive Office of the President who officially work for First Lady Melania Trump, although three of them also work for the President.

Independent News Service

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