French leader wants to give a role to his wife
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.