14 January, 2014

What a difference a date makes...

The situation of Valérie Trierweiler, the Angers born partner of François Hollande, French president, as first lady, was the starting issue tackled by a news conference this one gave on January 14th at the Elysée palace. Questioned about Mrs. Trierweiler's position as France first lady, Mr. Hollande said he was experiencing a "difficult moment" in his private life after, a few days ago, the gossip Closer magazine published photos about an affair the president had with an actress. After he refused to answer questions about that report, saying "private matters should be dealt in private", the French president announced he would make clear whether Valérie Trierweiler was still first lady before a travel to the United States in February.

In front of hundreds of journalists at the presidentrial palace, the head of state pointed out it was "neither the time nor the place" to answer questions regarding his personal life and that he would not be drawn on the reports of his affair with actress Julie Gayet "out of respect for those involved". Among them, there is of course Mrs. Trierweiler, admitted in hospital last Friday after the "shock" over the revelations, her aides say. Her staff explained that the revelation of the presidential affair had on Mrs Trierweiler the effect of "a collision with a high speed train". The first lady (even if Mrs. Treiweiler and Mr. Hollande are not married) is expected to remain in hospital for a few days.

The topic triggered a debate regarding Mrs. Trierweiler's status as first lady. She has an office in the Elysée Palace with six staff, which is financed by public resources. A split with Mr. Hollande would make her the first "première dame" to be kicked out of the Elysée palace. Because such a person represents France at home and abroad, a Maine-et-Loire deputy, Jean-Charles Taugourdeau, proposed to legiferate about the status of the first lady, "to protect her because the task is difficult" even if, for Mrs Trierweiler, the protection of a law against the trysts of her partner would have been quite inefficient. The first lady may face a difficult choice : whether to go back to the Elysée despite her partner's betrayal (and under possible criticisms from French) or slam the door.

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