Almost 200,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the wife of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, from being given the official position of “First Lady”.
The move to block Brigitte Macron from taking up a formal role at the Élysée Palace was triggered by her husband’s decision to push forward with controversial “morality” laws, which would ban parliamentarians from employing family members, in an effort to tackle corruption.
The role of First Lady does not currently exist in the French constitution, and any expenses the President’s wife incurs are taken from the general budget for the Élysée.
Although Ms Macron will not be paid for the role, she would likely receive an office, additional staff and a separate budget.
“When you’re elected president of the Republic, you live with someone, you give your days and nights, you give your public life and your private life,” Mr Macron told French broadcaster TF1.
“So the person who lives with you must have a role and be recognised in that role.”
The decision is particularly controversial because of cuts the President has already proposed to housing benefits and military spending.
Last month saw the biggest decline in popularity for a French president since Jacques Chirac in 1995.
The online petition against Ms Macron becoming first lady was created by Thierry Paul Valette, the founder of the “national equality” movement.
The organisation’s aim is to combat corruption and discrimination.
The petition specifies that, if enacted, the special status would allow the first lady benefit from the French budget.
Having an office, staff and an allowance from the public purse are examples of some such benefits.