Paris: A feud involving the French president’s live-in girlfriend, his former partner and his eldest son may tarnish the new leader’s carefully cultivated image as “Mr Normal” credited with helping him win the spring election among a populace weary of his flashy predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Francois Hollande is expected to break his silence about the family feud that has riveted the media during a television interview on Friday. The interview was held on tradition-steeped Bastille Day when a military parade and an interview by the chief of state about French policy at home and abroad is standard.
That he has agreed to answer questions about what’s really on everyone’s mind is a sign that in the Twitter era, even French leaders can’t keep their private lives private. And that’s the problem.
The presidential Elysee Palace on Friday confirmed reports that Hollande would talk about “tweetgate,” as the French media calls the affair if as is almost certain he is asked about it during the TF1 broadcast.
A tweet last month, during legislative elections, by
Hollande’s companion Valerie Trierweiler in support of the
political opponent of his ex-partner Segolene Royal caused ascandal.
Royal the mother of the president’s four children was defeated in her bid for a parliamentary seat.
The tweet was all it took to set the French political establishment aflame, and turn the president’s image on its head.
Widely criticised as a vindictive move, the tweet went viral and dominated news shows.
“He campaigned for a clean break with Sarkozy, but it was a big mistake for Valerie, as it put his private life into public view,” political communications expert Arnaud Mercier said in a telephone interview.
According to behind the scenes reports in the media, both Hollande and his children were furious, but all sides moved into a damage control operation and kept the feud under wraps.
The Twitter account of Hollande’s eldest son Thomas reads discreetly: “I don’t count on tweeting for the moment.”
A low profile was maintained until this week when the 27-year-old Thomas broke his silence, speaking out against his father’s companion’s actions to the newsweekly Le Point, published on Wednesday
“I knew that something could come from (Valerie) one day, but not such a big knock. It’s mind blowing,” he was quoted as saying.
“It upset me for my father. He really hates it when his private life is spoken about,” he said. Then he added what many were already thinking: “It destroyed the “Normal” image that he’d built up.”
The colourful amorous exploits of French leaders is nothing new.
For instance, Francois Mitterrand, French president from 1981 to 1995, had a secret daughter with a mistress.