Brigitte Macron's Unofficial Position
During his campaign, Emmanuel Macron's urged that the roles elected officials' family members play in politics be more transparent. To that end, he told the French people that upon his election his wife Brigitte would have an official position as First Lady but would not receive a salary from public funds. During the campaign this particular promise did not receive the highest degree of attention but with Macron's popularity falling drastically, the French could very well be expressing their discontent with Macron by petitioning against the First Lady's role in government.
Macron's popularity has fallen, at times sharply, since he took office. He has managed to offend the right by questioning General Pierre de Villiers and forcing his resignation. He has angered the left by his proposed labor reforms. The French president's elite background has not won him respect in rural areas while those in the cities question cuts to housing and other concerns. In addition, Macron's youthful alliances are not fluent in political protocol and their gaffs have been mocked. Within this context it is no surprise that a petition to quell an extension of Macron's power has gained traction.
The petition, found on change.org, has acquired over 188,000 signatures. Those behind the petition make it clear that they do not wish to "call [Brigitte Macron's] competence into question" but rather creating a "special status" for a presidential family member calls the government's ethics in to question.
France has no official First Lady role so it would take a legislative act to create the position, but current bills being voted on have upset that process. Currently the legislature is voting on ethics bills, which were alluded to in the petition, that place restrictions on government ministers' and parliamentarians' family members. Family members would not be able to receive public funds. Critics of Macron, namely from the Unsubmissive France contingent, wanted to add an amendment that included the same restriction on presidential spouses and partners. That amendment did not pass.
However there is still no official First Lady position. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet believes that current bill is not suited for "defining the role of the First Lady."
If this is the case then the petition as it stands may be moot. The next petition might be a plea for greater transparency, and that would stir the controversy back to its starting point.
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