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French government rules out First Lady role for Brigitte Macron

Posted August 8

French President Emmanuel Macron's plan to officially recognize his wife Brigitte as First Lady of France appears to have been abandoned, amid growing opposition to the idea.

The -lys-e Palace refused to comment on the decision to backtrack, but told CNN affiliate BFM TV that a "transparency charter" clarifying Brigitte Macron's position would be released in the coming days.

The move coincided with spreading support for a petition against according her an official title, status and budget, which has been signed by more than 280,000 people.

In a series of tweets, government spokesman Christophe Castaner defended Brigitte Macron's position, but said no changes would be made to it.

"Brigitte Macron plays a role and has responsibilities. We are looking to be transparent and to outline the means she has at her disposal," Castaner posted.

"No modification of the constitution, no new funding, no salary for Brigitte Macron. Stop the hypocrisy!"

"Brigitte Macron receives more than 200 letters a day ... and keeps a link with the French public with the greatest discretion," he added.

According to the French constitution, the president's spouse does not enjoy an official position, though they do have an office and a number of advisers.

While running for the presidency, Macron insisted his wife's role would not be paid for out of public funds.

President Macron's plans had caused consternation among his political opponents as he prepares to introduce regulations banning French parliamentarians from employing members of their own families.

If the law is passed, anyone convicted of such an offense in future could face fines and potential time in prison.

'Fake jobs'

France's last election campaign was plagued by fake jobs scandals involving far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative contender Francois Fillon.

And in June, just weeks after he came to power, Macron's Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard, resigned after becoming embroiled in a fake jobs scandal of her own.

In recent weeks, opposition lawmakers have voiced their anger at the apparently contradictory positions adopted by the French President.

Ugo Bernalicis, of the far-left coalition La France Insoumise, accused Macron's party of hypocrisy for speaking out against jobs for MPs' families but backing an official status for Brigitte Macron, "who was elected by no-one!"

And Republican National Assembly member Thierry Mariani accused Macron of taking a "do as I say, not as I do" approach to politics.

President Macron has been under increased pressure in recent weeks, with a number of polls reporting that his popularity has dipped since he took office in May.

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