When Emmanuel Macron lastly responded to studies that his personal bodyguard had assaulted Could Day protesters, he took full accountability.
“If they’re on the lookout for the individual accountable, it’s me and me alone,” he advised members of his occasion on Tuesday, 5 days after the incident was made public.
But, within the face of the largest political disaster of his tenure, the French president remained filled with bravado, declaring: “Allow them to come and get me.”
Critics say that the scandal centring on Alexandre Benalla, the 26-year previous previously answerable for the president’s safety throughout journeys, has highlighted the constraints of Mr Macron’s self-professed “Jupiterian” presidency.
And it has forged a lightweight on the inside workings of Mr Macron’s highly-centralised group of trusted millennial, largely male, aides. “Each the energy and the weak spot of the president is to have a really centralised and vertical organisation round him,” mentioned Nicolas Bouzou, head of Asterès, an financial analysis centre. “On the one hand it makes it environment friendly to launch reforms shortly however alternatively it makes him weak to affairs like Benalla as a result of he’s not protected.”
On the centre of the incident is Mr Benalla, who was caught on digital camera nearly three months in the past punching a male protester and tackling a younger lady in the course of the Could Day riots. Mr Macron and his group have been conscious of the incident however failed to tell judicial authorities. Mr Benalla was initially suspended for 2 weeks however was stored on the payroll and accompanied the French soccer group on their World Cup victory drive down the Champs-Élysées final week. The affair solely got here to mild after a video implicating Mr Benalla was broadly circulated on-line and revealed in Le Monde newspaper.
The scandal has united opposition events throughout the political spectrum, that are making ready to submit a movement of no confidence in opposition to the federal government.
“It’s unthinkable that Mr Macron ought to taunt his opponents with ‘come and get me,’” mentioned Thomas Guénolé, a political analyst and member of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left Unbowed occasion. “It’s a provocation by a baby king, not a statesman. The pinnacle of state has a behavioural drawback — he expresses provocations however refuses to reply questions.”
Mr Guénolé mentioned the affair is “a French Watergate . . . the principle drawback shouldn’t be what Benalla did however the cover-up by the very best officers in Macron’s group. The buildup of lies and the totally different variations of occasions are completely spectacular.”
Many questions stay unanswered, say Mr Macron’s opponents. Why did Mr Macron deem it essential to have his personal private bodyguard when there may be a longtime safety group for the French president? Why was Mr Benalla outfitted with a police helmet, armband and a two-way radio? Why did Mr Macron and his group fail to tell judicial authorities in regards to the incident? Was it on account of poor judgment, or was there a deliberate cover-up?
The scandal comes amid accusations that Mr Macron is a “president for the wealthy” who’s smug and out of contact with the lives of peculiar French folks. A €26,000 invoice for 3 months of make-up, a plan to construct a swimming pool on the presidential summer time retreat, and a public dressing down he gave to an adolescent who referred to as him Manu have all fuelled such criticism.
Mr Macron not too long ago ordered €500,000 value of latest banqueting plates for the Elysée Palace — across the identical time his workers posted a video of him lashing out on the “insane quantity of dough” pumped into social advantages.
Little greater than a yr into his presidency, Mr Macron’s reputation is declining. A survey by pollster Ipsos this week — the primary because the Benalla scandal broke — discovered that Mr Macron’s help had dropped to 32 per cent, down 4 factors since June and the bottom stage since September 2017.
Some say Mr Macron’s reign is as a lot about his fashion as his formidable reform agenda, which is aimed toward rebooting the eurozone’s second-largest financial system. “The whole lot on the Elysée relies on how shut folks suppose you might be to the president,” Mr Benalla advised Le Monde in an interview on Thursday. “Did he smile at you, name you by your identify, et cetera. It’s a court docket phenomenon.”
Rumours have swirled on the web in regards to the nature of the connection between Mr Macron and Mr Benalla, the son of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in a suburb of Evreux in Normandy and was unknown to the general public till final week regardless of his proximity to Mr Macron’s private and public life. “Alexandre Benalla has by no means had the nuclear codes!” joked Mr Macron when he addressed his occasion on Tuesday, including that ‘Benalla has by no means been my lover!’.
Within the Le Monde interview, Mr Benalla, who previously labored with the socialist occasion and suggested Mr Macron throughout his presidential marketing campaign, admitted he had made “a giant blunder”. He confirmed that he was paid €6,000 internet of tax every month for his function, had obtained a go to entry the Nationwide Meeting, and had an residence at his disposal, “an residence of 80 sq. metres, not 300 sq. metres as was mentioned”, which he claimed was mandatory for his job.
Mr Benalla was fired final Friday and is now being investigated for allegations of violence and impersonating a police officer. Mr Macron and his group are left coping with the fallout. The Benalla affair has harm Macron’s “picture, political capital and credibility,” mentioned Mr Bouzou. “What now’s the credibility of Mr Macron and his authorities to implement some troublesome reforms?”