Europe
5:08 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

French First Lady Sets Country A-Twitter

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 8:16 pm

Europe may be in major financial and political turmoil, but in France, it's a tweet that has the country in an uproar.

The political storm erupted Tuesday when first lady Valerie Trierweiler tweeted her support for a candidate running in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

That may sound harmless, but the candidate she encouraged is running to unseat prominent politician Segolene Royal, the former partner of President Francois Hollande and the mother of his four children.

The tweet quickly dominated the television news and Paris cafe talk. Some hailed Trierweiler's independence. Others, who refer to her as "Rottweiler," say her tweet was a clear jab at Royal and a shot in the foot of Hollande.

Hollande and Royal split up in 2005 after decades together, when he took up with Trierweiler, a career journalist. The right was delighted by the tweet scandal, dubbing it "Dallas at the Elysee Palace."

Franz-Olivier Giesbert, editor of newsmagazine Le Point, says the animosity between Hollande's present and past girlfriends could cause him trouble.

"Usually it's the ex who has problems with the new companion. And this time ... it's the new companion who cannot stand the ex companion," he says. "So people are watching that, and that's not really a problem now, but if it goes on, I think it can be a big problem for Mr. Hollande."

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's former president, had a highly public love life. He was married and divorced twice before meeting supermodel turned pop singer Carla Bruni, whom he married immediately after taking office.

Hollande Promised A No-Drama Presidency

Hollande sold himself to the French people as the down-to-earth counterpoint to Sarkozy. This incident undermines those claims, says journalist Jean-Marc Illouz.

The Socialist candidate had said that unlike the former president, Sarkozy, "He would be, I quote, 'a normal president,' " Illouz says.

And the irony in that now is that just like Sarkozy early in his term, a crisis with his companion has grown into a full-scale public scandal.

Nonetheless, the tweet uproar has brought some comic relief from the usual serving of grim financial news.

On Les Guignols, a satirical political TV show, puppets portrayed the ex and current partners as wild-haired hoydens, fighting over an indecisive, milquetoast Hollande.

"Stop your bickering or I'm going to lose my job," the Hollande puppet pleaded.

And an amused German press noted the hectic private lives of French politicians. The husband of Chancellor Angela Merkel, in contrast, keeps a very discreet profile.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Europe is in financial turmoil. Spanish banks just took a giant bailout. Italy's borrowing costs are skyrocketing. And a crucial vote in Greece this weekend may determine whether the country remains in the eurozone. But never mind that. In France, it's a tweet that has the country in an uproar. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has the story from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The political storm erupted Tuesday afternoon when First Lady Valerie Trierweiler tweeted her support for a candidate running in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

That may sound harmless, but the candidate she encouraged is running to unseat prominent politician Segolene Royal, President Francois Hollande's former partner and the mother of his four children.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: The gaffe quickly dominated television news and Paris cafe talk. Some hailed Trierweiler's independence. Others, who refer to her as Rottweiler, say her tweet was a clear jab at Royal and a shot in the foot of Hollande. Hollande and Royal split up in 2005 after decades together, when he took up with Trierweiler, a career journalist.

The right was delighted by the tweet scandal, dubbing it Dallas at the Elysee Palace. Franz-Olivier Giesbert, editor of news magazine Le Point, says the animosity between Hollande's present and past girlfriends could cause him trouble.

FRANZ-OLIVIER GIESBERT: Usually it's the ex who has problem with the new companion. And this time, it's very new and very strange for me. It's the new companion who cannot stand the ex-companion. So, people are watching that and that's not really a problem now, but if it goes on, I think it can be a big problem for Mr. Hollande.

BEARDSLEY: Former President Nicolas Sarkozy had a highly public love life. He divorced, dated, and remarried supermodel-turned-pop singer Carla Bruni immediately after taking office.

Hollande sold himself to the French voters as the down-to-Earth opposite. This incident undermines those claims, says journalist Jean-Marc Illouz.

JEAN-MARC ILLOUZ: The Socialist candidate had said that unlike the former President Sarkozy, he would be, I quote, "a normal president." And the irony is that now - just like Sarkozy earlier in his term - a crisis with his companion has grown into a full-scale public scandal.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL TV SHOW)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: A satirical political puppet television show, "Les Guignols," portrays the ex and current partners as wild-haired hoydens, fighting over an indecisive, milquetoast Hollande. Stop your bickering or I'm going to lose my job, pleads the Hollande puppet.

The tweet uproar has brought some comic relief from the usual serving of grim financial news. An amused German press noted the hectic private lives of French presidents. The husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps a very discreet profile.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related Program