Benalla affair: how tarnished is Macron's image?

Only after an investigation was launched and under pressure from the public did Macron fire his ex-bodyguard and condemn his conduct. Alexandre Benalla and an employee of the ruling party had assaulted demonstrators on May 1. While the state and the media are defending Macron's stance journalists conclude that the president is losing a lot of his former appeal.

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Le Soir (BE) /

Why the separation of powers is crucial

Questioned by journalists about the Benalla affair, Macron answered that the French republic cannot be changed. But that's not true, Le Soir believes:

“The republic and power itself are never unchangeable. They are changed even by those in charge, those who respond with contempt to criticism, and feel superior to everyone and everything during their term in office. This is why the separation of powers, which is notably being trampled on in Poland, is vital for democracy. In the Benalla affair it was the press, the judiciary and the French parliament who forced the president to apply the law and respect the moral principles and responsibility which he had made such a big deal about. This is the only thing we can be glad about in this affair.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

King Macron must set his arrogance aside

The Benalla affair is also harming Macron's image, De Volkskrant chimes in:

“The French like a monarchic style and a president who lends their country a certain grandeur. But he who plays the king risks distancing himself from the people. Macron has concentrated all the power in his hands, with the support of a small group of technocrats who are only answerable to him. For many French people this modern court is an arrogant clique whose members feel superior to the man on the street. ... The Benalla affair has weakened Macron's position. ... The president will have to tone down the arrogance of power. More than he has done in the past, the republican king must forge ties with his people.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Unorthodox methods have reached their limit

Macron's system of government is starting to wobble, observes Stefano Montefiori, Corriere della Sera's Paris correspondent:

“Macron conquered the Élysée with a kind of democratic Blitz, an overwhelming operation based on talent, faith, luck and speed as well as a small team that was united in absolute obedience to its boss. As president, Macron continued with this vertical exercise of power in order to fulfil his promise of changing the country. He followed the logic of his group of closest confidantes of whom he demanded everything while at the same time giving them free rein. Also when it came to security at the Élysée palace, Macron apparently relied on a kind of parallel squad that didn't always stick to the rules. These methods seemed to work - until one day Alexandre Benalla went too far.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Just another egoist

The affair is reinforcing the impression that France has so far of its president, Der Standard observes:

“Macron's image had already been tarnished, but at the start of July he managed with his state-of-the nation address to curb the growing criticism of his self-glorifying style of government somewhat. His conduct at the World Cup final also gave his popularity at home an urgently needed boost. The current affair, however, is cancelling this out. The French people's suspicion is turning into certainty: Macron is just another one of those who looks after himself and his own.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Populism can triumph once again

The Benalla affair is a setback for democracy, legal expert Dominique Rousseau writes in Le Monde:

“The real question isn't so much the morality of public figures, or even the transparency of public life. It's that those who work in the public sector and who have been granted certain competences must exercise them in an even-handed, fair way. No one is born virtuous, neither private citizens nor public figures. But they can become virtuous thanks to the law, which led society out of barbarism. ... The current political situation is grave because political virtues are on the decline. Democracy is collapsing, and populism is thriving.”