France backs away from official role for Brigitte Macron

PARIS — Proposals to make official the role of France’s first lady ran aground after a public outcry over suggestions by the French president that it was time to consider enshrining in law the role of presidential spouse.

Although President Emmanuel Macron had yet to specify what role he envisioned, a petition against any official recognition of the first lady began circulating on the Internet three weeks ago. By the end of Tuesday, nearly 300,000 people had signed it, and with Macron’s popularity ebbing somewhat, the government backed away from proposing statutory changes and sought to calm the rising controversy.

There will not be “any modification to the constitution, any new resources nor any remuneration” for Macron’s wife, Brigitte Macron, a government spokesman, Christophe Castaner, said in a series of Twitter posts Tuesday.


The main goal, Castaner said, was to make clear that “she plays a role, she has responsibilities.”

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“We want to be transparent,” he said.

On the campaign trail, Macron had gone considerably further, saying that he would like to see a statute that gave a legal framework to the work of the president’s spouse.

This summer, however, was not a good time to push ahead on the project. The French Parliament is working on an ethics law for politicians that would, among other things, ban the hiring of relatives.