French politics

The “Mitterrand syndrome”

François Hollande, current French president

François Hollande, current French president

Yesterday morning, the French State radio France Info really thought to get a scoop revealing the French president was admitted at hospital to be treated for prostate on February 2011, a month before he announced his bid a socialist candidate.

Reactions went fast, some political columnists and analysts were wondering about it was seen as mystery. According to them, François Hollande had a surgery intervention and he did not give explanations to the French people who deserved to know. These explanations finally were given by the Elysee, in the evening, via a release confirming the French leader was treated for his prostate but the intervention was banal and there was nothing to comment, that is all!

French president’s health conditions has always been a very burning issue since Georges Pompidou managed to hide his blood cancer to the French people, pretending a repetitive grippe, despites some evidence till his unexpected death the 2nd of April 1974. Then François Mitterrand did not reveal his prostate cancer and managed to make this classified file to a real lie, making publishing wrong health statements from 1981. Dr Gubler, Mitterrand’s personal medicine practitioner, denounced it just some days after the ex-socialist president passing away in 1996 but he will be sentenced and banned from the medicine practitioner order.

François Mitterrand (1919 - 1995), French president from 1981 to 1995

François Mitterrand (1919 – 1995), French president from 1981 to 1995

Since then, it is quite normal the opinion is a little bit more suspicious (or asks with insistence at least) regarding the real or supposed leader’s health condition. While everybody deals with transparency, and it always good to know if the person who is ruling the country can still do it, especially if there are no consequences for his mental and his capacity to make decisions.

But regarding François Hollande, there is nothing important to report or notice! As he himself explained, he was treated a long time before he becomes president and this piece of information should be considered as a private fact as Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French Prime minister, reminded. To be clear, the France Info scoop only existed to create a buzz about an ordinary story!

Once again, François Hollande’s prostate reminds us that France (or French journalists rather) has what we can name “Mitterrand syndrome” in reference to the ex-socialist leader who did not hesitate to lie in order to his disease does not become a political issue. Since then, any French president’s analysis, behaviour, health conditions is spied, studied by some people who think to get a very important piece of information for the future of the country even if it means doing a political analysis. In 2005, for instance, Jacques Chirac suffered from a cerebrovascular accident which definitely questioned his chances to apply for a third presidential term in 2007. In August 2009, media largely covered the vagal malaise Nicolas Sarkozy was a victim after jogging, although he had only been imprudent!


To be clear, as Jacques Dutronc – a famous French performer – sings, “on nous cache tout, on nous dit rien” (everything is hidden to us, nothing is said to us”) and everything must be revealed even if it means to forget one essential rule: in spite of his functions, the French president has the right to a private life from the moment his health is not questioned by his mental and discernment capacities. François Hollande is obviously in this situation and maybe he will be able to say he would have promoted the prevention regarding prostate diseases!

PS: and as I was dealing with Jacques Dutronc… maybe one of you within my foreign audience know this famous French singer