Emmanuel Macron’s lavish birthday party in palace sparked fury: ‘Who is king?’

Paris: Yellow Vest protesters march against Macron's policies

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Emmanuel Macron may be the favourite in next year’s presidential election, but that doesn’t mean victory will be easy. The opposition still hasn’t recovered from the way Mr Macron shattered the political establishment in 2017. And even if his most powerful challenger, National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen is performing well in the polls, French voters have proved willing to hold their noses in the second round and vote to keep her out of power.

However, the French have also made it clear in the last two elections that being the incumbent is not necessarily to a candidate’s advantage.

And with the coronavirus crisis still raging, and a recent resurgence of Islamist terrorism, Mr Macron will have to work hard to retain his seat in the Elysée presidential palace.

France has been one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the sixth-highest number of cases and seventh-highest death toll.

The French President has also faced waves of anti-government “Yellow vests” protests.

The movement started in November 2018 and has seen violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

The protests were sparked by fuel price rises but have since become a broader movement against his “pro-rich” policies.

Throughout his time in office, Mr Macron has often been accused of being “the President of the rich”.

In 2017, he and his wife Brigitte stayed in luxurious accommodation in the grounds of the Château de Chambord prior to his birthday bash.

The castle, in the Loire valley, was built by King Francis I almost 500 years ago, with Leonardo Da Vinci possibly involved in its design.

These days it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Elysee Palace said Mr Macron and his wife were using private funds to pay for their stay.

However, the choice of venue immediately sparked scorn and criticism from the president’s opponents, who call the former merchant banker the “President of the rich” because of his tax reforms.

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Lionnel Luca, a Republicans Party politician, wrote on Twitter: “Who is the king?”

Green party senator Esther Benbassa also noted that Mr Macron’s arrival at the Loire valley chateau came on the same day that his government said it would not raise the national minimum wage.

Radical-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon added it was “strange” for the President to want to party in a royal castle.

He said at the time: “I am so republican that everything about royal symbols exasperates me, I find it ridiculous.”

Mr Macron landed in some hot water again the year later, over plans to build a new swimming pool at his private presidential retreat.

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The planned pool at Fort Brégançon, on France’s south-east coast, was designed to provide privacy for the president’s family, and particularly children.

But Mr Macron’s political opponents painted it as an extravagance.

The presidential palace told French broadcaster BFMTV that the cost would have been drawn from the usual budget for maintenance of the Brégançon retreat.

However, the proposal emerged just weeks after a controversy over the cost of new formal dining plates for the Élysée palace, Mr Macron’s primary residence in Paris.

A new porcelain dinner set cost some €50,000 (£43.000) – though one publication claimed the real cost was closer to €500,000 (£432.000).

In the same week, he used the private presidential jet for a 110km (68-mile) journey lasting 30 minutes and was heard to remark on the “shedload of cash” spent on the country’s benefits system.

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