‘Joke of a speech from throne’: French MPs slam ‘Monarch’ Macron’s costly Versailles congress

People take part in the "Fetes Galantes" fancy dress evening in Versailles on May 28, 2018 / AFP

Ahead of a pompous Versailles congress by French president Emmanuel Macron, quite a few MPs have announced they will snub the gathering over its cost, saying a “President of the Rich” turns the Republic into presidential monarchy.

As preparations got under way for the speech to the Congress of the French Parliament – the meeting of the National Assembly and the Senate – at the posh Palace of Versailles, the leader took a hit from a number of MPs over its cost which is estimated to be as high as €286,000 ($337,000). 

It’s about €7,000 less than the previous congress, but the lawmakers insist that the expenses are unnecessary and the leader of the French Republic has again forgotten that he is an elected president, not a king.

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Macron’s presidential rival and most trenchant critic Jean-Luc Melenchon, in a series of tweets and long statements, called for the event to be boycotted.

“The President of the Rich gradually transforms the presidential monarchy into an absolute presidential monarchy,” he wrote. Melenchon, who views the former investment banker-turned-president as a self-styled emperor, also called on people to join an online protest on Monday under hashtag #MacronMonarc against his “authoritarian drift”.

“Monarch Macron will receive representatives of the people at the Palace of Versailles… who are to listen to His Majesty..,” Eric Coquerel from Melenchon’s France Insoumise party sarcastically noted. He lamented that “this new world has everything from the old regime and nothing from the Republic.”

The policies of the ambitious centrist were slammed by François Ruffin from the National Assembly. “He’s like Robin Hood in reverse. He takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich” the politician bitterly noted while talking to French media. He said that he assumed that Macron is no longer “the President of the Rich,” but has already become “the King of the Rich.”

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The event is “a joke of a speech from the throne. I live in the Republic,” Green Party politician and another of Macron’s critics, Esther Benbassa, tweeted. She added that she will be in Versailles, but she is neither going to attend the congress, nor listening to “the King.”

Republicans Pierre Cordier and Julien Dive also pulled no punches on the president, insisting that by organizing such an event the president just wants to show that he rules alone and doesn’t need any opposition. 

The politicians’ boycott and #MacronMonarc hashtag inspired people on social media to roll out collages mockingly depicting the leader as a French king, wearing posh mantles and pompous wigs.

Macron has been trying to combat flagging personal ratings and an unwanted image as a high-handed technocrat during all 14 months of his presidency. His lifestyle came under fire from both politicians and Twitterati who have previously labelled him ‘Jupiter’, ‘King’, ‘God’ and ‘Napoleon’.

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The Versailles congress is aimed at laying out the government’s program for 2019. It is taking place amid repeated anti-Macron demonstrations across the country against the proposed labor reforms. Signs depicting the centrist president as a king have become an integral part of such protests.

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