Monday, June 25, 2007

Ségolène Royal and her Personal Life

Within hours of the final election results for France's parliament, Ségolène Royal announced her separation from her 30-year companion and father of her four children, Francois Hollande. He is also the current head of the French Socialist party, under whose banner Ségolène ran for President.

As little as I speak French I was aware that there were problems between the two during the election so their announcement didn't come as a big surprise. But I was unaware that she was not only breaking up with him but also planned to oust him as Socialist party head (quote from linked article above):

"The Break-up" was the headline of the popular Le Parisien newspaper while the leftist Liberation quipped that election night was "full of surprises."

"After having pushed her former partner out the door of their family home, she now is planning to do the same thing by expelling him from his office as party boss," wrote Liberation.

Here's the question that Bart and I discussed at length: Does the fact that she waited to announce the separation until after the election constitute a betrayal to her voters and party or was waiting the appropriate thing to do?

Bart felt that it was a betrayal. That it was dishonest of her. That in the interest of transparency, their breakup should have been announced earlier. It was obvious there were problems. The voters and party would have been relieved. As a matter of fact, the party members who were interviewed in the article above were just that - relieved. They called the Royal-Hollande relationship during the campaign the "Bermuda Triangle of the Socialists." "We took all the necessary detours to avoid it." Their personal problems caused great communication problems when the election was at its most critical moment.

On first glance I thought it was better that they waited to announce the breakup. Better for the stability of the Socialist party. But I think I based this on the temperament of the US elections process, where we are so freaking religious that a candidate's divorce or separation is big bad news. And in the US, a divorced Presidential candidate, without a partner, would probably be labeled as "unstable." Especially if the candidate was a woman.

I have a friend who ran for office as a Republican candidate and I remember all the photo sessions she scheduled showing her going to church, which she never does in real life. She also had my jeweler boyfriend make her a gold cross that she could wear in public to give the impression that she was a Christian, but on the back of the cross she had him engrave sun, moon and other pagan symbols as a little secret joke. It's all a bullshit game in America where candidates will do what it takes to pander to the religious right in order to get elected.

I don't believe they pander to religion this way in France. Even though this is a Catholic country where everything still shuts completely down on Sunday (we never remember to do our grocery shopping on Saturday), religion and politics don't seem to be mixed. Nobody but the US press made a big deal about the fact that Royal had 4 children but had never married Hollande. Now, the French press did make a big deal out of Sarkozy's wife leaving him for an American CEO, Sarkozy's subsequent affair with a French journalist, and then Sarkozy's wife coming back to him. But what was more important recently was not whether Sarkozy's wife would stay with him or not, but the fact that she didn't bother to vote in the second Presidential election.

So, if the climate here in France would weather a breakup mid-election, why didn't she do it then? Was she dishonest? Evidently, some of her party members think she is:

Royal kicked up a storm this week by disowning key parts of her presidential platform -- the extension of the 35-hour week and a big hike in the minimum wage -- as unrealistic, saying they were imposed on her by the party old guard.

She was savaged for her comments, attacked as "duplicitous", "provocative", "deceitful" and "clumsy," and accused of trying to shift blame for her failed presidential bid onto others.

[Notes on the Images: I took the circular stencil image (above right) on the day after Sarkozy won the election. This stencil was on the sidewalk in a popular outdoor market near our apartment. It says "Sego Tous" - using the S in Sego as the ending S in Tous. Tous means "all." This probably refers to the saying "par Ségo, tous egaux" which means roughly, "For Ségolène, all are equal." I found what may be a website related to this saying, where I lifted the pointallist image (above left).]