Expenses scandal sees Macron under scrutiny

19 Jul 19

The resignation of France’s environment minister François de Rugy this week, over using public funds to pay for lavish dinners and renovations of his home, has renewed the focus on President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership.

De Rugy quit after reports last week that he spent $86,000 renovating his apartment and plied $550 bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc wine, giant lobsters, and champagne to his guests at taxpayers’ expense.

Mediapart, an investigative news outlet, reported that de Rugy hosted the lavish meals between 2017 and 2018 as the then head of the National Assembly, parliament’s lower house.

The energy minister was spearheading Macron’s policy to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear power and boost renewable sources.

His departure, less than a year into the job, is the fifth by a senior figure in President Emmanuel Macron’s entourage since the start of this year.  Recent months have seen the resignations of Macron’s political strategist Stephane Sejourne, his communications advisors Sylvain Fort and Barbara Frugier, and special advisor Ismaël Emelien.

Macron has been under almost constant fire since taking office in 2017 for the alleged detachment of his presidency.

Macron was elected as France’s youngest president promising change at the head of a new movement called Republique En Marche, but has been forced into a series of U-turns in his pro-business agenda and has lost a number of senior figures from his cabinet. 

Critics have accused him of favouring the wealthy in his drive to revive the French economy and opinion polls have indicated that he is seen as aloof and unsympathetic towards ordinary people.

This latest blow comes in the wake of Macron’s botched handling of the actions of his bodyguard Alexandre Benalla last year, who was captured on video beating demonstrators during a May Day protest.

Amid accuations that his administration had attempted to cover up the incident, the French president initially defended his bodyguard before eventually firing him.

Macron’s approval ratings fell and the affair compounded criticism of his style that fed into nationwide street protests by the “yellow vests” movement over high living costs in France, which have since prompted government pledges to increase wages and lower taxes. 

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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