France's Hollande caught in storm over partner's tweet
By Michael Mainville, AFP
June 14, 2012, 12:14 am TWN
PARIS--French President Francois Hollande faced his first political storm Wednesday as his right-wing opponents looked to exploit an incendiary tweet by his partner just days ahead of a parliamentary election.
The tweet by unofficial first lady Valerie Trierweiler wishing luck to an election opponent of Segolene Royal — Hollande's ex-partner and mother of their four children — was also rounded on by the French press as an "embarrassment" that threatened to damage the Socialists' electoral chances.
"France's First Gaffe," left-wing daily Liberation wrote on its front page beside a photograph of Trierweiler, saying she had put Hollande "in a delicate position."
Right-wing daily Le Figaro went further, saying the Twitter comment had sown "amazement and confusion" among Hollande's Socialist Party and would have "heavy consequences."
Royal, who failed in a 2007 presidential bid, is standing against Olivier Falorni, a Socialist dissident, for a parliamentary seat in the western town of La Rochelle.
Hollande has publicly thrown his weight behind Royal, but in the tweet on Tuesday Trierweiler wished Falorni "good luck" and praised his "selfless commitment" to the people of La Rochelle.
The rivalry between the two women has long been a subject of speculation.
Hollande stood loyally by Royal as she battled right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency in the 2007 race, but he had reportedly been in a relationship since 2005 with Trierweiler, a twice-divorced 47-year-old mother of three.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gave Trierweiler a slight rebuke, saying she needed to learn to be a little more discreet.
"I think she should play a discreet role, which is not easy to figure out," he said. "I understand that things are always a bit complicated at the start, but everyone needs to find their place."
Ayrault accused the right of "over-exploiting" the incident, as Hollande's opponents jumped on the tweet as an inappropriate intrusion of the president's private life on to the political scene.