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Sunday 18 March 2018

French President Macron wants to give a formal role to his wife

French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte (AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte (AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to formalise the role of the president's wife amid controversy over the cost and status of the first lady.

The president's office is preparing a formal communication in coming days, Brigitte Macron's office said.

During his presidential campaign, the 39-year-old centrist promised more "transparency" on the issue. France's first lady does not have an official status.

As the president's popularity drops in polls, more than 270,000 people have signed a petition in the past few weeks against the plan to grant a tax-funded budget to finance his wife's activities.

Mrs Macron has an office at the Elysee Palace and a staff composed of two advisers and two secretaries as well as bodyguards.

Publicly, she is mostly seen at her husband's side.

The status of the president's partner appears to be a sensitive issue in France following a series of scandals in the past few decades, including Mr Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande's complex private life.

There has not been a presidential spouse in the Elysee Palace since 2012, when Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife Carla Bruni left.

Mr Hollande entered office in 2012 with his girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler at his side, but she left him after a tabloid magazine exposed his secret affair with actress Julie Gayet in 2014.

Gayet has never publicly appeared by Mr Hollande's side.

Mr Macron once said he wants to end "French hypocrisy" about the status of presidential spouses. The person living with the president "must be able to play a role and be recognised for that role" but would not be paid for it, he said before his election.

He created an inseparable team with his wife during his presidential campaign, a move more often seen on US political stages than in France.

Mrs Macron, 64, a former teacher at Mr Macron's high school, attended most of her husband's rallies. The president does not hide that she is also his close political adviser.


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