Benalla Scandal: 'It Will Soon Be Forgotten But Impact Could Be Damaging' - Prof

© AP Photo / Christophe EnaEmmanuel Macron, center, flanked by his bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, left, visits the Agriculture Fair in Paris, Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Emmanuel Macron, center, flanked by his bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, left, visits the Agriculture Fair in Paris, Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - Sputnik International
The scandal in France around former security aide Alexandre Benalla is a storm in a teacup, according to President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to AFP on Thursday. Mr. Benalla was caught on camera during the May Day riots tackling a protester to the ground and punching him repeatedly before fleeing.

Sputnik discussed the way President Macron handled the scandal surrounding his now former chief bodyguard Alexandre Benalla with Jean Garrigues, a professor of history at the University of Orleans and Sciences Po political science institute in Paris.

Sputnik: President Macron was criticized for his response to the scandal around Benalla. What is your take on the way Macron handled the situation?

Jean Garrigues: It's very difficult to say because for the first time he chose to be silent and I think it was a mistake, but when he said something he assumed the responsibility for the facts and it was a good thing for the French people. But as many times, at the same time he assumed responsibility, he said kind of a provocation in front of the media and that was maybe the second mistake from Emmanuel Macron.

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Sputnik: Now while Mr. Benalla admits his mistake, he sees reaction to it as an attempt to get at Mr. Macron, how granted is this point of view in your opinion? Do you agree that this particular instant is just an instant where the press and the media are just trying to have a go, so to speak, at Mr. Macron?

Jean Garrigues: In the first year of Macron's presidency, it was a kind of struggle between the President and the media and the press, and so this moment is a good moment for the press to take revenge. The same is true for the MPs, the parliament and the opposition party in the parliament, who believe that they were mistreated by the President, so there's also a kind of revenge against President Macron.

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Sputnik: Politicians and journalist have already called the affair Macron's Watergate, how long lasting could be the impact of this scandal be? Is it likely to go on?

Jean Garrigues: It's very difficult to say. As a historian I have to say that it's not a new Watergate, it's not something very serious because it's just one person who has too much power. However, that's not something as serious as Watergate was. But in the society of 2018 every single dysfunction is kind of a scandal, so it could be very bad for the popularity of Emmanuel Macron, and I think the scandal will very soon be forgotten but the impact of the scandal could be very damaging for Emmanuel Macron.

Sputnik: Recent polls have shown a drop in Macron's popularity following the scandal, what implications could the controversy around Alexandre Benalla have on Mr. Macron's career in the long term? Now we know that once Macron came to power, he had a very popular majority in terms of the voting public's thoughts and feelings about him. Since then, he's had various issues and challenges to cope with, not least the terms and conditions of the public transport workers. They were on strike for quite a long period of time, what's the general feeling now regarding Macron among the from the population in France? Are thy beginning to fall out of love with what the new President believes?

Jean Garrigues: Yes, I think [there was] what we call in France an 'état de grâce', the first period, where people loved Emmanuel Macron; this period is finished.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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