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French First Lady Sets Country A-Twitter

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Europe may be in major financial and political turmoil, but in France, it's a tweet that has the country in an uproar.

The political storm erupted Tuesday when first lady Valerie Trierweiler tweeted her support for a candidate running in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

That may sound harmless, but the candidate she encouraged is running to unseat prominent politician Segolene Royal, the former partner of President Francois Hollande and the mother of his four children.

The tweet quickly dominated the television news and Paris cafe talk. Some hailed Trierweiler's independence. Others, who refer to her as "Rottweiler," say her tweet was a clear jab at Royal and a shot in the foot of Hollande.

Hollande and Royal split up in 2005 after decades together, when he took up with Trierweiler, a career journalist. The right was delighted by the tweet scandal, dubbing it "Dallas at the Elysee Palace."

Franz-Olivier Giesbert, editor of newsmagazine Le Point, says the animosity between Hollande's present and past girlfriends could cause him trouble.

"Usually it's the ex who has problems with the new companion. And this time ... it's the new companion who cannot stand the ex companion," he says. "So people are watching that, and that's not really a problem now, but if it goes on, I think it can be a big problem for Mr. Hollande."

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's former president, had a highly public love life. He was married and divorced twice before meeting supermodel turned pop singer Carla Bruni, whom he married immediately after taking office.

Hollande Promised A No-Drama Presidency

Hollande sold himself to the French people as the down-to-earth counterpoint to Sarkozy. This incident undermines those claims, says journalist Jean-Marc Illouz.

The Socialist candidate had said that unlike the former president, Sarkozy, "He would be, I quote, 'a normal president,' " Illouz says.

And the irony in that now is that just like Sarkozy early in his term, a crisis with his companion has grown into a full-scale public scandal.

Nonetheless, the tweet uproar has brought some comic relief from the usual serving of grim financial news.

On Les Guignols, a satirical political TV show, puppets portrayed the ex and current partners as wild-haired hoydens, fighting over an indecisive, milquetoast Hollande.

"Stop your bickering or I'm going to lose my job," the Hollande puppet pleaded.

And an amused German press noted the hectic private lives of French politicians. The husband of Chancellor Angela Merkel, in contrast, keeps a very discreet profile.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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