Macron sets mandate's course at Sun King's palace

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 03, 2017 8:04 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - Emmanuel Macron will on Monday use the opulent palace of Versailles to present a roadmap of his five-year presidency to lawmakers from both houses of parliament, in a ceremony some opponents have decried as "monarchical".

Macron is not the first French leader to hold a so-called Congress, though past presidents have tended to use the address in times of crisis or constitutional reforms. France's youngest leader since Napoleon wants it to be an annual feature of his presidency.

"He is going to put in perspective his actions for the next five years, and even beyond that," an aide to the president told Reuters.

Macron's aides also say that by convening parliament's 925 lawmakers to the 17th century palace built outside Paris by Louis XIV - the 'Sun King' - the president is seeking to restore old-fashioned grandeur to the role, his aides say.

Macron wants to embody a "Jupiterian" vision of the presidency - whereby the president, very much like the Roman god of gods, speaks rarely except to issue orders.

That is in sharp contrast with his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who strived to be seen as "Mr Normal".

While many in France still hold dear the display of presidential power, Macron's style has grated with others who lament the strong powers the constitution drawn up by war hero Charles de Gaulle bestows on the presidency.

A commanding majority in parliament comprised of dozens of legislators who are new to politics has tightened Macron's grip further still. He promises deep-reaching social and economic reforms that opponents say favor business over citizens.

"The first act of an unchallenged presidency", read the cover of Liberation newspaper showing a god-like, bare-chested Macron in a Roman toga holding bolts of lightening.

Opposition lawmakers from the far-left France Unbowed party said they would boycott the event, as will Communist lawmakers and the small center-right UDI party.

The congress comes just one day before Macon's prime minister, Edouard Philippe, makes his own address before lawmakers. Far from stealing Philippe's thunder, the two speeches will compliment each other, Macron and Philippe's camps say.

French presidents were not allowed to address parliament in person until a 2008 constitutional reform decided by former conservative leader Nicolas Sarkozy, but had written speeches read to lawmakers by top officials.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Richard Lough)