The French President, Francois Hollande, is facing a personal and political crisis after Valerie Trierweiler, the first lady, openly backed a rival of his former partner Segolene Royal in parliamentary elections.
In what has been dubbed ‘the war of the roses’, a single explosive tweet from Trierweiler sent shockwaves through the Socialist Party’s parliamentary election campaign. Some warned it could cost Hollande’s party seats.
A commentator close to Trierweiler said she had acted out of “blind jealousy” against Royal, the mother of Hollande’s four children, creating a private and political “psychodrama” at the pinnacle of state.
Trierweiler is said to be deeply unhappy about Hollande wading into the parliamentary campaign to back Royal against a fellow left-winger for a parliamentary seat in La Rochelle, western France.
The Socialists’ failed 2007 presidential candidate is fighting an uphill battle against Olivier Falorni, the head of the local Socialist federation, who has refused a party order to step down to back her.
Royal came top in Sunday’s first round with 32 per cent against Falorni’s 29 per cent. But she could lose Sunday’s run-off to her left-wing rival because he is supported by the ousted centre-right UMP candidate.
Hollande has pledged to give Royal the post of president of the National Assembly should she win, as thanks for her support in party primaries.
The day began with the President reiterating his support for his embattled former partner, saying: “Segolene Royal is the only candidate of the presidential majority who can be assured of my support.”
He then sent Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, to La Rochelle to throw her weight behind Royal. But Trierweiler fired off the tweet, saying: “Good luck to Olivier Falorni who has done nothing worthy of blame, who has fought alongside the people of La Rochelle for so many years with selfless commitment.”
Royal declined to react, saying only that “all my spirit, all my energy, all my thoughts are for the voters” of La Rochelle.
Hollande gave no official reaction, but one of his advisers told the newspaper Le Monde: “I’m completely shocked. I expected government crises, not conjugal ones. It beggars belief.”
Hollande’s opponents jumped on Trierweiler’s tweet as an inappropriate intrusion of Hollande’s social life onto the political scene. “This affair makes a mockery of our country and of our head of state,” said Eric Ciotti of the UMP. “It is a grotesque, ridiculous situation that weakens the position of the head of state.” In the past, Trierweiler has said that Hollande could trust her with anything except for her tweets.