A Citizen Like Any Other –French People Reject the Idea of Roles for the First Lady
Emmanuel Macron, France’s youngest president, is popular for standing firmly beside his wife Brigitte Macron in spite of the age difference. His wife has been instrumental in the new president’s governance, but her role has been entirely unofficial. However, the president is seeking to change this by assigning her an official role with some of the privileges that go with it.
Emmanuel Macron has expressed his desire to consult his wife on matters to do with health, education, and culture. Brigitte Macron, who is a former teacher of literature, is considered well suited to hold this position. The position will come with privileges including a personal chief of staff and assistants; however, the president has been keen to mention that his wife will not be entitled to a salary.
Other reasons have been put forward to justify such a position. For instance, it is alleged that Brigitte has already received more letters than the popular former girlfriend of Francois Hollande received in a year.
A Break Away From Tradition
Presidents’ spouses have largely held unofficial roles by their husbands’ sides. Their main roles have involved making appearances at official and social gatherings and providing emotional support necessary to run the country.
However, this has not always been the norm. Many spouses have in the past succeeded in influencing policies and being entitled to privileges that come with official roles. For instance, Bernadette Chirac is reported to have had 21 advisers, and Cecilia Sarkozy traveled to Libya in an official capacity to negotiate the release of Bulgarian nurses. Brigitte Macron has also been vocal in policy making from the very start of her husband’s term.
As such, it would seem that most people are against the idea of an official position rather than the undertaking of such responsibilities.
A Risky Move
So far, about two-thirds of the French disapprove of President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal. This, coupled with the fact that Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating has been dipping, may end up costing the new president significant political mileage especially if he continues insisting upon it. Additionally, it comes in the wake of introduction of labor market reforms.
The recent Presidential Election in France uncovered how MPs have been assigning their spouses official positions and granting them access to public funds. This ended up costing many MPs their positions and even broke Francois Fillon’s presidential campaign.
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