July 23, 2018
A Watergate affair for Macron?
The affair around Emmanuel Macron's body guard, Alexandre Benalla, is quickly turning into a political crisis since last Wednesday Le Monde published a video showing him beating up a protester at the May 1 demonstrations.
The matter has dominated work in the national assembly since then. Many lawmakers are aghast that Benalla still had an office in the presidential palace two-and-a-half months after the incident, and that he was not immediately reported to judicial authorities. Instead he only received a two-week suspension as punishment, which many MPs call too weak of a response. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is spearheading the attacks on the government, did not hesitate to compare this to the Watergate affair, according to Le Point. This is certainly exaggerated but the government is clearly responsible for a failure of judgement, and Macron's reputation will take a hit. The question we are interested in is how far it will bring him and his government off course. The government already had to suspend the assembly debate about constitutional reform. The opposition parties are likely to keep up the pressure, and the government is in defensive mode. Will Macron still have what it takes to deliver on other reforms? In a way it is good that it is summer and the schedule is less packed. If the affair drags on into autumn, however, we expect an even bigger knock-on effect.
Gérard Collomb, interior minister, will be grilled by MPs at a committee hearing. Benalla, meanwhile, was fired from his job as security guard at the Élysée palace on Friday. Yesterday he was taken into custody and placed under formal investigation together with Vincent Crase, who worked for LREM and was on his side during the May 1 events, and three police officers who circulated the video.