While France’s President Emmanuel Macron was enjoying his holidays on the French Riviera, his administration was rocked by a full-scale scandal that involved the opening of an investigation into his former adviser and head of security, Alexandre Benalla. A 26-year-old descendant of Moroccan immigrants who was sacked on August 3 following the release of a video that showed Benalla beating protestors during a May Day demonstration in Paris.
The ongoing scandal has come as a jolt to the usually quiet August news cycle and has precipitated the most serious crisis for Macron since he became president in May 2017. The news comes at a bad time for Macron, whose approval recently hit a new low at only 39%, according to the Institute of the Public Opinion Research, which has mainly been attributed to the public’s outrage over the recent social and economic reforms launched by Macron since he came into office.
France has since slashed its contentious wealth tax and introduced a flat rate on capital gains, but students’ benefits were removed and the defence budget is facing serious cuts.
The French opposition and several sectors of civil society expressed outrage after that Macron failed to follow French law and report to the Prosecution Office that a crime had been committed by Benalla. Macron, instead, opted for a disciplinary action and did not inform any law enforcement agency about the Benalla incident. Macron was compelled to dismiss Benalla nearly two months after the event occurred and only following after coming under pressure from the voting public.
Macron’s handling of the case may have more far-reaching negative consequences for his political movement as a special commission has been charged with investigating the case. His party has survived two votes of no confidence since the incident went public, but the Benalla case is becoming a major distraction for Macron as he attempts to shore up support for more of his reform policies.