French leader wants to give a role to his wife

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — Af­ter more than three years with­out a first lady, the French don’t ap­pear to be very ea­ger to get a new one.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron wants to for­mal­ize the role of his wife Brigitte, but crit­ics say it’s too costly. The pres­i­dent’s of­fice is pre­par­ing a for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion in com­ing days, Brigitte Macron’s of­fice said on Tues­day.

Dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the 39-year-old out­spo­ken cen­trist promised more “trans­parency” on the is­sue.

Un­like in the United States, France’s first lady doesn’t have an of­fi­cial sta­tus.

As the pres­i­dent’s pop­u­lar­ity drops in polls, more than 280,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion in the past few weeks against the plan to grant a tax­funded bud­get to fi­nance his wife’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

“There’s no rea­son why the spouse of the head of state would get a bud­get from pub­lic funds,” the pe­ti­tion says.

Brigitte Macron cur­rently 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.

An of­fi­cial at Brigitte Macron’s of­fice said that the plan isn’t to change the French Con­sti­tu­tion or make a bill to give of­fi­cial sta­tus to the first lady, but to pub­lish a char­ter that would de­tail her pub­lic role, her staff and the cost to the French tax­payer.

No es­ti­ma­tion of the cost has been given.

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 Macron pre­de­ces­sor Fran­cois Hol­lande’s com­plex pri­vate life.

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

The French got used to the ab­sence of a first lady: Gayet has never pub­licly ap­peared by Hol­lande’s side.

Brigitte Macron, 64, a for­mer teacher at Em­manuel Macron’s high school, at­tended most of her hus­band’s ral­lies. The pres­i­dent doesn’t hide that she is also his close po­lit­i­cal ad­viser.


French First Lady Brigitte Macron and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron at­tend a con­cert at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 25.

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