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Pressure mounts on Francois Hollande to end first Lady confusion due to his affair with Julie Gayet

Monday, 13 January 2014 - 8:07pm IST | Place: Paris
Francois Hollande came under mounting pressure on Monday to clear up the confusion created by the latest developments in his complicated love life.
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Francois Hollande came under mounting pressure on Monday to clear up the confusion created by the latest developments in his complicated love life.

The Socialist leader had been hoping to ride out the storm created by last week's revelation of an alleged affair with Julie Gayet, a blonde actress 18 years his junior. 

But any hope of that was shattered on Sunday when it emerged that Hollande's companion of several years and de facto First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, had been hospitalised with stress. 

Symptoms variously described in the media as low blood pressure, exhaustion and a "severe case of the blues" developed within hours of glossy magazine Closer publishing details of 59-year-old Hollande's alleged secret trysts with Gayet, 41, in a borrowed apartment close to his official residence, the Elysee Palace. 

Trierweiler, who lives with Hollande at the Elysee, was expected to leave hospital later on Monday, and friends of the president advised him to move quickly to put an end to the speculation over their future as a couple. 

"He has to clarify the situation," said Thierry Mandon, the spokesman for the Socialist Party's parliamentary group. 

"He really must clear up his personal situation so that we can address the serious issues we face. He has to do it once, firmly and decisively, and then we don't talk about it any more." 

The traditional reticence in France's media and political class over what is seen as prying into the private lives of public figures ensured that reaction to Closer's scoop was initially subdued. 

Despite concerns that Hollande had apparently been taking risks with his own security with clandestine visits to the flat on a chauffeur-driven scooter, it looked like he would be allowed to resolve his personal dilemma behind closed doors. 

But the fact that Trierweiler is effectively a public figure with an entourage funded by the taxpayer has made her future a legitimate news story.

"What an affair!" was how the latest twists in the saga were summed up in a front-page headline in Le Parisien. No longer a purely private matter. 

Another daily, Liberation, said that because of Trierweiler's hospitalisation the affair could no longer be brushed off as a purely private matter. 

"It is hard to see how the president can avoid clarifying the situation -- both medical and official -- of the First Lady," Liberation commented. 

Hollande is due to appear at a New Year's press conference on Tuesday which was supposed to be devoted to his plans for the year but now looks certain to be overshadowed by his personal problems. 

Having put her career as a journalist for Paris Match on hold after Hollande's 2012 election, Trierweiler, 48, has accompanied the president on high-profile overseas visits to China, Japan and India and is due to travel with him to Washington next month. 

Rumours that Hollande had become enamoured of Gayet have swirled around Paris since the actress appeared in a campaign video for him in which she gushed about him being "fantastic, humble and really ready to listen". 

In March 2013, she filed a legal complaint for intrusion on her privacy after suggestions of an affair with Hollande were published on a number of obscure websites and blogs. 

That helped to fuel rumours that all was not well at the Elysee, but friends of the First Lady quoted by Le Parisien have insisted she was devastated when the report of the affair emerged. 

"She is ready to forgive him, she doesn't want to slam the door but she has to know quickly what his intentions are," the local paper quoted a friend as saying. 

Opinion polls suggest French voters are also willing to forgive Hollande his alleged infidelity: a weekend survey found that more than three quarters (77%) think his love life is his own business -- though that was before Trierweiler's hospitalisation. 

A remarkable 84 percent said his conduct would have no bearing on their opinion of him, although pollsters stress that is not saying much, as he is already the most unpopular president in post-war France. 

Twice-divorced Trierweiler has officially been Hollande's partner since 2007, when he left Segolene Royal, a fellow heavyweight in the Socialist Party and the mother of his four children. 

Biographers say the split actually came two years earlier and that Hollande pretended to still be with Royal for fear of harming her 2007 presidential campaign. 

Prior to that, Hollande reportedly dithered for months over which woman he should be with -- a precedent which does not augur well for a speedy resolution of the current uncertainty.


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