Does social media now rule politics? When a middle aged woman, potentially jealous about the attention her partner was paying to another woman, composed a two-word, carefully timed message and released it on Twitter, who could have predicted its impact on recent French elections?
The tweet created a firestorm of controversy in France, and reportedly led to the defeat of a popular political candidate.
The woman who launched the word bomb just so happened to be First Lady Valarie Trierweiler, the media savvy, celebrity girlfriend of the newly elected French President, François Hollande. The target? Segolene Royal, the mother of Holland's four children, who had formerly lived with him for 30 years.
With just a week left in parliamentary elections, Trierweiler, sent out a two word message offering "Good Luck!" to Socialist dissident Olivier Falorni, the man running against Royal in the elections. Well-timed for maximum disruption of Royal's campaign, it reportedly led to her defeat.
What might have prompted Trierweiler's jealousy? Her partner, Hollande, had promised Royal the post of President of the National Assembly, if she won the election. Trierweiler's message, reported put her at odds with Hollande, and added an element of confusion to the election.
The response from critics was immediate. "This affair makes a mockery of our country and of our head of state," Eric Ciotti of the centre-Right UMP told reporters. Indeed, Hollande, 57, himself, was reportedly furious at the tweet.
Hollande, in frustration, asked his aides to keep her in check. "You must ask Valérie to be careful, she can cause you harm," one is reported as warning him. "You're right," Mr Hollande is said to have replied. "You talk to her."
The disruptive force of the two word tweet, which may have led to electoral defeat is worth noting. It is worth noting because of the pattern of defeats that have eroded the political power of Segolene Royal, over the past five years. Over the past five years, the romantic relationship between Hollande and Trierweiler has become increasingly public.
What critics want to know is this: Over the past five years, has a jealous Trierweiler, a journalist with the Paris Match, been using her knowledge of the political process, and the media, to undermining the success of Royal?
Ever since media savvy Trierweiler took up with Hollande, popular Segolene Royal, who reportedly has almost a "cult-like" following because of her advocacy for the common citizen, has suffered a string of losses in key political elections.
In 2007, for example, French Socialist Party's candidate Royal lost the presidential election to Nicolas Sarkozy. Mid-campaign, as she struggled to maintain her focus, she asked Hollande to move out of the family home because of his romantic involvement with Trierweiler.
In 2008, under what were termed "dubious circumstances," she narrowly lost the Socialist Party's election for First Secretary at the Party's twenty-second national congress. In 2011, a year after Trierweiler's relationship with Hollande became publicly known, Royal lost her second bid to represent the Socialist party in national elections. With Trierweiler at his back, Hollande won.
Recently, Hollande publicly announced his intention to elevate Royal to president of the National Congress if she won her local election. Ambushed by the twitter tossed word bomb, she lost.
Intriguingly, the Daily Mail reports that Ms. Trierweiler did not travel with Hollande to the G8 Summit in Mexico this week, and that her personal biography has disappeared from the Elysee Palace website. An aide confirmed that Ms. Trierweiler was being encouraged to 'remain in the shadows because Mr. Hollande was 'furious' at the way she has behaved so far.
Responding to the humiliating tweet, Royal told loyal supporters, "I did not want to react because the blow was so violent. But that does not mean I didn't feel wounded by it, I am not a robot." At the time she added: "I didn't want to respond in the heat of the moment because I am fighting a tough political battle and I need to stay in a good state of mind."
When asked about her defeat and the now infamous tweet on French 2 television, Segolene Royal quoted writer Victor Hugo saying: "Traitors always pay for their treachery in the end."
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