January 19, 2007


Talk of rift adds to intrigue of France's power couple (Katrin Bennhold, January 19, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Lovers for 26 years, Royal and Hollande became rivals for the Socialist nomination last year.

Royal prevailed in party primaries. Now that she is the star, is Hollande living up to his official mission -- and presumably personal pledge -- to support her?

"He wants her to win, but he does not want to be relegated to the back seat, that is becoming very clear," said Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, a member of the Socialist Party's top leadership. "This is a new situation -- for them, for the party and for the country." [...]

When Hollande announced last week that a future Socialist administration should increase taxes for anyone earning more than €4,000, or $5,190, a month, Royal swiftly retorted: "I'm not in favor of increasing taxes."

Then, late Wednesday, one of Royal's spokesmen, Arnaud Montebourg, told a television interviewer that Hollande was a liability. "Ségolène Royal has only one flaw -- and that is her partner," he said, adding quickly that he was joking. Royal was not amused, and suspended Montebourg for a month.

That came on top of media reports all week -- most spectacularly in Le Monde, whose reporter got an unidentified Socialist party leader to keep a phone line open during a strategy meeting -- suggesting that the Socialists were at a loss to understand Royal's campaign, and how to participate.

Royal's poll rating took its first serious hit in months, slipping five points. A survey published this week by the CSA institute showed that in a straight run-off, Royal's center-right opponent, the interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, had overtaken her at 52 percent.

With the political differences between Royal and Hollande in headlines all week, speculation about infidelity, and separate apartments resurfaced. Some commentators pondered whether all that was left of the couple was a facade of a political partnership of convenience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2007 5:19 PM
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