France's First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, provoked a political and conjugal storm yesterday by publicly supporting a rebel candidate against Ségolène Royal, President François Hollande's former partner.
Ms Trierweiler, 47, a TV journalist who has pledged to retain her independence, caused astonishment in the Elysée Palace by sending a supportive message to a renegade Socialist who threatens to deny Ms Royal a seat in parliament.
"Best of luck to Olivier Falorni who has done nothing wrong and has battled selflessly for the people of La Rochelle for so many years," Ms Trierweiler said in a post on the Twitter micro-blogging website.
Mr Falorni, a politician for La Rochelle on the French Atlantic coast, has refused to accept a decision by the national party to "parachute" Ms Royal, a former presidential candidate, into the constituency. Both he and Ms Royal ran for the seat in the first round of parliamentary elections last Sunday.
Both qualified for the second round. With many centre-right voters viscerally opposed to Ms Royal, Mr Falorni could win the seat this Sunday. He has rebuffed requests and threats from party headquarters demanding that he step down.
Yesterday President Hollande let it be known that he was "of course" supporting Ms Royal, who is not only the official party candidate but the mother of his four children. The couple split up soon after Ms Royal's unsuccessful presidential run in 2007.
Relations between Ms Trierweiler and Ms Royal were long poisonous but seemed to have calmed in recent months. An Elysée Palace adviser told the newspaper Le Monde that he was "frozen to the spot" when Ms Trierweiler confirmed the tweet was authentic. "I had been expecting government crises but not conjugal ones," he said.
The incident was the first serious gaffe in what has been a faultless first month in office for Mr Hollande. Ms Trierweiler's independent and sometimes peremptory manner has long worried Mr Hollande's friends and advisers. She has caused problems by being too quick on the tweet trigger before. In an interview in April, she said: "François has complete confidence in me – except for my tweets."Reuse content