Politics without the personal stuff

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Politics without the personal stuff


“If you want to know what’s going on in the world, read “Le Monde.” If you want to know what goes on behind these stories, read “Paris Match,” advised a senior journalist when I first arrived in Paris as a correspondent over 20 years ago. I soon became a loyal reader of the weekly current affairs magazine with an emphasis on photographs. Whenever I read this magazine, I always find an interesting scoop that makes me wonder how they captured the moment or where they got the source. The gossips on various newsmakers help the readers understand the true face of the French society.

One of the unforgettable photos on Paris Match was the portrait of Segolene Royal and her family after she had her fourth child. Royal, who was a cabinet member in the Francois Mitterrand’s government, was holding a newborn baby, surrounded by three older children. The biological father of the four children is Francois Hollande. At the time, Hollande was a newly elected member of the National Assembly. Royal and Hollande were in the same class at Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), and they were partners without getting married. To me, the lifestyle of having four kids without getting married and making it so public was unfamiliar yet refreshing.

President-elect Francois Hollande is still legally single. His domestic partner Valerie Trierweiler is a culture writer of Paris Patch and a host of political talk show on television channel Direct 8. Trierweiler, who has been married twice and has three children, began her relationship with Hollande in 2006. Instead of traditional marriage or common law marriage, the two are bound by PACS, a civil solidarity pact. Nowadays, many French couples choose PACS over marriage, as the civil union between two adults provide same benefits and protection in social welfare, taxation, childcare and education while it can be ended simply through a mutual agreement.

Hollande’s former partner Royal ran as a Socialist candidate in the 2007 presidential election and defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy. As the head of the Socialist Party, Hollande had commanded the election campaign of his former partner. As Hollande won the presidential election this time, he got even for the defeat of Royal five years ago. During the election campaign, Royal also played an active role for her former partner. There is a rumor that Royal will be included in Hollande’s cabinet.

Official treatment and formality for Valerie Trierweiler is controversial as she is to become the first domestic partner to become the First Lady of France. Trierweiler wants to remain in the PACT relationship and continue her career even when she enters the Elysee Palace. However, being a domestic partner may lead to challenges in official protocol and security. In the end, they may have to choose to get married officially. But no matter what other people say, it is strictly a personal matter for Hollande and Trierweiler. I am curious to see the photographs on next week’s Paris Match.

The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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