A Socialist Vaudeville at La Rochelle

Ségolène Royale, center.
Photo: Flickr.com/Place au Peuple

“Courage to Olivier Falorni who has proven himself worthy, who has fought alongside the people of La Rochelle for so many years in a selfless commitment.” It was a simple tweet in support of Ségolène Royal’s opponent, Olivier Falorni, that triggered an uproar in the quiet port of La Rochelle after it was posted Tuesday morning by Valérie Trierwieler, the girlfriend of French President François Hollande. This city, best known for its hipster tourists and its traditional Sociality Party summer school held every August, has been experiencing an absurd political farce since Monday.

Royal, officially a representative of the Parti Socialist (PS), 2007 presidential candidate, and current president of the Poitou Charente region, is running against Falorni, a dissident of the Left, in the second round of legislative elections this Sunday. Falorni, who came in second place on Sunday night, refused to step down despite the wishes of his former party. This refusal complicates Royal’s election as well as her future goal of becoming President of the National Assembly.

Monday morning, President Hollande endorsed the former 2007 candidate, who is also his former partner and mother of his children. “In the district of Charente-Maritime, Ségolène Royal is the only candidate for the Presidential majority who is entitled to my support,” was seen on Royal’s campaign pamphlets. However this support was not shared by the current first lady, Trierweiler, who dared to speak out against Royal on Twitter.

So, the mixture of public and private life, long criticized by Nicholas Sarkozy, has made its return to media headlines. Journalists have been asking themselves whether the tweet was personal revenge or a simple friendly message. Regardless, it appears to be the first major communication mistake of Hollande’s presidency. Unease dominates the PS. Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Prime Minister, said yesterday on television: “I think it is a discreet role that needs to be her own [Trierweiler’s], and it is not an easy one to find,” adding that “everyone should put themselves in her place.”

After a long silence, Ségolène Royal, visibly affected by the episode, responded to Valérie Trierweiler this morning in the newspaper Libération: “in the face of the force of the blow, I did not want to react in the heat of the moment, because I am leading a difficult political struggle and I have to stand firm. As a politician, I demand to be respected in the same way as the political support given to me by the President.” On a visit in Italy, François Hollande refused to comment on the episode.

Ever since, Royal has multiplied her attack against Olivier Falorni, comparing him to a traitor who will be elected with the votes of the right, while her opponent continues to defend his local publicity, calling himself a victim of the PS. This morning, a new poll showed Ségolène Royal to be losing in the 1st district of Charente Maritime with 42% of the vote, compared to 58% in favor of Olivier Falorni.

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  1. […] as well as the that of her former and victorious opponent in the legislative race, Olivier Falorni. Royal and Falorni used to be the two main proponents and organizers of these rallies. La Rochelle is their […]

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