The news from French parliamentary elections Sunday should have been the capture of an outright majority in the National Assembly by President Francois Hollandeâ??s Socialist Party. Now with control over the 577-seat Assembly, Hollandeâ??s cabinet is secure and enactment seems certain for his left-of-center agenda: a 75 percent marginal tax rate on annual incomes of one million euros or more, new 45 percent tax rate for those earning more than 150,000 euros ($195,000) a year, hiring 60,000 new school teachers, and taking the retirement age in France from 62 back to 60.
But what should be cause for Hollande and his party to break out the champagne was marred severely on Sunday by the internationally-watched soap-opera like circumstances surrounding a race for one Assembly seat: in bucolic La Rochelle, where Socialist Olivier Falorini defeated fellow Socialist Segolene Royal, who was not only the partyâ??s 2007 presidential nominee, but the former companion of Hollande and mother of his four children — they were never married.
More dramatic than Royalâ??s stunning defeat was the news last week that — despite support for her from Hollande and the Socialist hierarchy — the presidentâ??s current companion Valerie Treierweiler endorsed opponent Falorini via Twitter. The renegade endorsement was dubbed â??the Twitterweiler affairâ?ť in the French press and dominated discussion on the popular â??France24 Debate.â?ť The tweet even emerged in a question to Hollande during a joint press conference in Italy with Prime Minister Mario Monti (the French president refused to answer the question about his present companionâ??s break with him over the candidacy of his former companion).
â??Political treasonâ?ť is how, in conceding defeat Sunday, an obviously angry Royal described Treierweilerâ??s endorsement of the maverick candidate against her. The 58-year-old Royal had planned that upon winning a seat, she would then become president of the Assembly and thus the highest woman public official in France.
Will this French version to the America TV series Dallas have an impact on the Socialist agenda? Probably not. But with polls showing as many as 69 percent of French voters disapproving of Treierweilerâ??s move, it has to raise some doubts about the presidentâ??s ability to leadâ??or, at the very least, his ability to manage his own household.
LePenâ??The Third Generation
In becoming the top story in the French elections, the â??Twitterweilerâ?ť affair overshadowed the news that the center-right UMP Party had lost control of the Assembly one month after its own Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidency to Hollande. The other major story that emerged from the voting was the capture of two Assembly seats by the anti-immigrant, anti-E.U. Front National — the first time the Front has had seats in the Assembly in more than a decade. Although its 2012 presidential candidate Marine LePen lost a race for a seat (by about 120 votes), one of the Frontâ??s two winning campaigns was by her niece, Marion Marechal LePen. In winning the Carpentras constituency in the South of France, law student Marechal LePen not only unseated a 26-year incumbent (Jean-Michel Ferrand) but becomes, at 22, the youngest Assembly Member in the history of Franceâ??s 54-year Fifth Republic.
Standing at her side as she claimed victory was, to no oneâ??s surprise, her grandfather Jean Marie-Le Pen, controversial founder of the Front who first won a seat in the Assembly during the Fourth Republic back in 1956.