French politics

A too independent Première Dame?

Valérie Trierweiler, François Hollande’s companion, arriving at the Elysée Palace (Paris), during the transfer of powers, the 15th of May

This was the political piece of information of these previous days in France. Valérie Trierweiler, companion of the French president, officially backed Olivier Falorni, candidate to the legislative elections at La Rochelle, and direct challenger of Ségolène Royal, Socialist party candidate, former candidate to the French presidency, and François Hollande’s ex-companion.

In a recent interview – for the women’s magazine “Elle” – the French first lady warned: she didn’t want to be decorative but active, useful. She did not also want to disturb the President of Republic’s parole. But her opportunist tweet changed the situation.

This controversy takes place only few days before the legislatives run-off. If such a tweet should not have an impact on the final result (that is to say, a huge victory of the Socialist Party and its allies), it seems to be problematic as it puts forward the role and the place of the First Lady in France, on the political stage especially.

Indeed, backing Olivier Falorni, former Socialist Party Secretary General at La Rochelle and excluded of the party not withdrawing his candidacy, Valérie Trierweiler not expressed her point of view publicly only but clearly put the French Head of State in an awkward position and a useless controversy. Her well-known hostility towards Ségolène Royal undoubtedly explains her last Tuesday act in which she is not really aware of it when she rejects any jealousy.

The right-opposition, more or less embarrassed by the attitude of some UMP candidate who want to make or already have made a deal with the Front national to be elected or re-elected at the National Parliament (as the former minister of Family, Nadine Morano), enjoyed to comment this controversy, hoping it is going to enjoy this situation not immediately but on a long-term, insofar as behind the tweet story, it is the authority of François Hollande which is clearly targeted.

Considered as a wimp man during a while, François Hollande managed to shift this image during the presidential race and even before, introducing himself as a coherent man and never changing his mind, what was determinant compared with Nicolas Sarkozy who seemed to be incoherent and not very confident. It would be pretentious and hazardous to think the Valérie Trierweiler’s tweet may question this new image François Hollande built. Moreover, it’s through his reforms and his policies French people will make an opinion.

Nonetheless, it is highly probable some political analysts and journalists are going to wonder on the legitimistic place and influence of Valérie Trierweiler within the French presidency. Must be she considered as the simple companion of the French head of State, or an influent woman in which her actions and statements sanction (positively as negatively) the president of the Republic, as Cécilia Sarkozy vis-à-vis his husband, five years ago? If Valérie Trierweiler wants to go beyond the space reserved for the First Lady in France, she must be aware of the fact her acts and points of view will be immediately analysed, as her tweet backing Olivier Falorni. Furthermore, she is not a simple citizen but a personality, an important detail to take into account and François Hollande surely remind her, question of legitimacy and authority.