French President Emmanuel Macron will push his ambitious reform agenda in a speech to both houses of parliament at the opulent Versailles Palace on Monday amid mounting criticism of his “monarchical” drift.
Macron’s office has given little indication of specific issues the French president will cover during his hour-long address, though reforms of the pension system and a plan for tackling poverty are expected next year.
The speech comes a day before lawmakers begin debating Macron’s call for constitutional changes aimed at streamlining the legislative process, including shrinking the number of seats in the National Assembly and the Senate by a third.
He also already pushed through corporate tax cuts and a loosening of labour laws, as well as major education and housing reforms, and an overhaul of the state rail operator SNCF despite stiff union resistance.
But a growing number of critics, including some in his own centrist La République en marche (LREM, or Republic on the Move) party, accuse the former investment banker of neglecting the concerns of voters on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
Recent comments that France spends “a crazy amount of dough” on social security programmes did little to soften his image as the “president of the rich”, as he is called by opponents.
Macron’s regal, top-down style has also raised hackles, with some MPs on the both the left and right boycotting his Versailles speech as the latest sign of a “monarchical” drift.
After bypassing France’s legislature with his labour reforms, Macron has irked lawmakers by threatening to call a referendum to override resistance to his parliamentary overhaul.
He has transformed “an optional and rare presidential address into an annual speech to which lawmakers can only respond by their absence, without any vote,” the rightwing Republicans MP Annie Genevard said.
“Tomorrow we’re going to get a long speech on ‘my life, my work’ that will be all about him,” Christian Jacob of the Republicans told French television Sunday.
Macron has also taken heat over the cost of bussing out hundreds of lawmakers to France’s former royal seat and deploying dozens of Republican Guards who will flank his ceremonial entry – estimated at €300,000 ($350,000).