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Petition builds against French president's plan to formalize first lady role

More than 250,000 people have signed a petition against French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to create a formal first lady role for his wife, Brigitte.

Brigitte Macron, who receives about 200 letters per day, already has a staff of 4

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, leave after the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 14. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

More than 250,000 people have signed a petition against French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to create a formal first lady role for his wife, Brigitte.

The wife of the French president does not have a formal role, although they are often informal champions for charitable causes. Past presidential wives have had small teams working for them at the Élysée presidential palace.

During his election campaign, Macron said he wanted to create a formal role for the French first lady, with her own office and staff.

He has made clear the first lady should not receive a public salary, but many French people say they see his plan as an "Americanization" of their politics.

Emmanuel Macron gestures as he attends a dinner with his wife, U.S. President Donald Trump and wife Melania Trump. The French president is looking to formalize a role for France's first lady, complete with her own office and staff. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The issue comes as the French parliament, dominated by Macron's party, pushes through reforms that would make it illegal for members to provide paid jobs for their relatives. One of Macron's main rivals in the presidential election, conservative challenger François Fillon, saw his campaign derailed by allegations he paid his wife public money for fictitious work as a parliamentary assistant.

"They are asking members of parliament and senators not to employ their spouses, but they make an exception for the wife of Emmanuel Macron. That is contradictory," said Thierry Paul Valette, who launched the Change.org petition against first lady status for Brigitte Macron.

Singer Rihanna, founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation, is welcomed by Brigitte Macron as she arrives at the Élysée Palace in Paris late last month. The wife of a French president currently has no formal role. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

According to a YouGov poll published by the Huffington Post in May, 68 per cent of French people were against the creation of a formal first lady post.

An Élysée spokesperson said the first lady's position would be defined in a charter which is being drafted.

Brigitte Macron, who receives about 200 letters per day, already has a staff of four.

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