French President Francois Hollande’s partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has sparked a political storm and embarrassed the Socialist Party by tweeting her support for a dissident candidate standing against Hollande’s ex-partner, Segolene Royal, in the parliamentary elections.
The saga threatens to damage Hollande, who has been careful to style himself as a down-to-earth “president normal,” but he now faces charges that animosity between his present and past girlfriends has turned his leadership into a celebrity soap opera worthy of the worst excesses of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s highly public love life.
Trierweiler’s unexpected tweet comes at a critical time for the Socialists. Royal, who is the mother of Hollande’s four children and was his long-term partner before he moved in with Trierweiler in 2007, is facing a difficult fight for a parliamentary seat in La Rochelle.
She topped the poll in the first round, but another local Socialist, Olivier Falorni, who came second, has refused to stand aside and is fighting on a dissident ticket in the final runoff this weekend.
The Socialist party, which backs Royal, had pressured Falorni to quit the race.
Hollande was quoted saying Royal was “the only candidate” with presidential support in Royal’s latest campaign leaflet, issued on Tuesday morning as Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry arrived in La Rochelle to support her.
However, just before noon, Trierweiler, or @valtrier — who was once dubbed “Tweetweiler” for her use of the social network — tweeted: “Good luck to Olivier Falorni who has proved himself worthy, who has fought alongside the people of La Rochelle for so many years with selfless commitment.”
Paris political circles were so shocked at the tweet, which appeared to be a clear jibe at Royal, that most thought Trierweiler’s account had been hacked, but 40 minutes later, Trierweiler confirmed that she had sent the tweet.
The saga, which immediately dominated all news media, seemed to play into every stereotype and criticism that Trierweiler had been seeking to avoid, namely that she interfered in politics.