PARIS: Nearly 200,000 people have signed an online petition against the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron being given a formal position as the country’s First Lady.
The petition, launched two weeks ago on change.org, demands that no public money be set aside for the First Lady role that Macron promised to create for his wife while he was still a presidential candidate.
“Brigitte Macron currently has a team of two or three aides, as well as two secretaries and two security agents. That’s enough,” says the petition, which had collected 188,000 signatories by Monday.
“We strongly denounce any and all sexist attacks against Brigitte Macron, and we do not in any way seek to call her competency into question,” the text reads. “However, during a time when ethical behaviour needs to be reasserted in French politics,” with the adoption of a law notably forbidding ministers and parliamentarians from employing their family members, “we cannot sanction the creation of a special status for the spouse of President Macron”.
During his campaign, Macron had indicated that his wife would have “a fully public role” if he were elected, in order to avoid what he deemed to be a certain “hypocrisy” on the part of prior administrations, but that she would not be paid a salary with public funds.
“I want there to be a defined role for her, and I will ask for a proposal to be presented on how to proceed in that regard,” he had stated, explaining that his government “would specify the contours of that position in the first few weeks”, and that Brigitte would make the final decision about her future function.
The creation of a First Lady status came before France’s National Assembly last week, during the legislative body’s examination of proposed new ethics laws. Deputies from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France), attempted in vain to add an amendment to the bill stating that public funds could not be given to a president’s spouse or partner, the same restriction that would be placed on government ministers and parliamentarians.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet recalled that Emmanuel Macron had come out in favour of “greater transparency regarding the role and the resources granted” to the head of State’s partner. However, according to Belloubet, the bill under discussion was “not an appropriate method for defining the role [of First Lady]”.