The Many Empty Chairs Surrounding Emmanuel Macron

(Bloomberg) -- The corridors of the Castle, as France’s Elysee presidential palace is often called, are looking empty.

About a third of Emmanuel Macron’s prominent advisers have left over the past few months and it’s taking weeks, sometimes even months, to find replacements.

His chief strategist, his political aide and the chief of staff’s right-hand man have all gone. There’s no one to advise on energy. And the communications team has two empty slots. The list may yet grow longer.

According to media reports Macron is about to lose his top two foreign policy aides. Chief diplomatic adviser Philippe Etienne is said to be moving to the U.S. as ambassador, while his deputy, Aurelien Lechevallier, is said to be taking up a post in South Africa. The president’s office has declined to comment.

Observers and political commentators have said Macron lacks “a deep bench,” a sports expression referring to the size of teams and their pool of talents. The head of Senate, Gerard Larcher, told Europe 1 radio last month the departures and difficulties in finding replacements highlights the president’s “isolation.”

It’s all starting to affect Macron’s ability to pursue his agenda -- reform of the unemployment benefit system is in tatters and talks on overhauling the pension system have slowed. Out in the provinces, he has had to defend his policies as he attempts to quell protests by the Yellow Vests -- a determined and sometimes violent grass-roots movement against inequality.

Macron’s small and devoted coterie that’s been with him since the presidential elections, have almost all resigned, moved to other political posts, or indicated they’ll leave soon.

There’s even uncertainty within the European campaign, ahead of May’s EU elections. The campaign’s head struggled with his first public role and was replaced by European Affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau, a technocrat now under fire following reports she belonged to a far-right student union in her youth.

Macron’s paying a high price for being a maverick politician.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.