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It's bad enough that the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a new biography on her husband, has to put up with a man she complains "takes himself for Jesus." Now, after enduring snarky innuendo about their 24-year age difference, Brigitte Macron is the brunt of nasty remarks over his plan to make France's de facto first lady a de jure one, all because of her husband's missteps, reported The Globe and Mail.
It turns out that "Jupiter," as the new President is also nicknamed, does not walk on water. Not yet 100 days into office, Mr. Macron has seen his popularity plummet faster than almost any other modern French leader. Even his two immediate predecessors, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, had higher approval ratings at this point in their presidencies. And both ended up as one-term presidents.
To avoid the same fate, or even accomplish much during his first term, Mr. Macron will need to persuade French voters that he is in it for them rather than himself. His early days have left the opposite impression. Mr. Macron may indeed have a plan to fix what ails France, but his failure to communicate the purpose of his proposed reforms and his imperial style are quickly turning off voters who were not really as into him as the foreign media might have made it seem in May.
Mr. Macron ran for office as a consensus-builder. But his dressing down of the country's top general, after the latter publicly criticized an €850-million ($1.27-billion) cut to the defence budget this year, has made him look like an authoritarian leader. The general, Pierre de Villiers, resigned a few days later. "I consider it undignified to expose certain debates publicly," Mr. Macron said in a mid-July speech before French troops. "I am your chief."
The French media depict an extreme centralization of power in Mr. Macron's Elysée Palace. Most modern French presidents have left legislative sausage-making to their prime ministers and have given their cabinet ministers wide leeway to shape the administration's agenda. But Mr. Macron is a micromanager who runs everything with his chief of staff and top adviser. His Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, and his ministers are widely portrayed in the French media as figureheads relegated to the task of processing orders barked at them from the Elysée.
That has led to the botched rollout of several measures, including a small reduction in rent subsidies for low-income people, stricter working conditions for the public sector and a tax change that hurts pensioners. Along with a plan to exempt financial assets from wealth taxes, Mr. Macron has left himself vulnerable to charges that he is favouring the rich at the expense of the poor. Mr. Philippe has insisted that everyone will end up benefiting from Mr. Macron's budgetary reforms, which will eventually include a total of €10-billion in tax cuts, but the Elysée has done a poor job of communicating Mr. Macron's strategy to boost French competitiveness.
The same goes for his plan to confer legal status on the function of first lady.
The wives (or partner, in Mr. Hollande's case) of recent presidents have disposed of budgets and staff to help them carry out their public activities. Mr. Macron's plan to make the first lady an official of the state has badly backfired. Some see it as an anachronism that harks back to an era when political wives were mere appendages of their husbands. Others see it as another sign of Mr. Macron's imperial ambitions – an Internet meme has him placing a crown on his wife's head. The Elysée is now backtracking, saying it will instead propose a "charter" to set out the first lady's role.
What worries the Macronistes the most is that the real challenges are yet to come. The National Assembly, controlled by the President's Republic on the Move party, has already passed legislation that empowers the government to change the rigid French labour code by decree. The Elysée is poised to unveil the legal text of those changes by the end of the month and unions and leftist politicians are already preparing to stage big September protests.
Read more at beta.thegobeandmail.com
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