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The Family Values Of The French Presidential Election

Nicolas Sarkozy has children from three different women. His challenger for France's presidency, François Hollande had four kids with a former candidate, but they never wed, then split. Struggling with monogamy, disdaining hypocrisy, reveling in

Hollande/Royal (2007), Bruni/Sarkozy (2009)
Hollande/Royal (2007), Bruni/Sarkozy (2009)
Joëlle Kuntz

PARIS - When François Hollande delivered his victory speech following his win in last Sunday's first round French presidential election, his new partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was there to support him. But on France's TV stations, there was another important woman in his life supporting him: Segolene Royal, his partner for nearly 30 years and the mother of his children.

It's been said that despite her numerous marriages, Liz Taylor only had one real love of her life: Richard Burton. Segolene and François may be heading down that same road. The two French politicians seem to be stuck with each other no matter what they do. And what they do is hardly ordinary: they've now each made the runoff as the Socialist candidate for the French presidency: Royal in 2007 and Hollande this time around. For their four kids, the Elysee palace is close. Their mother came very close to moving there in 2007 before losing to Nicolas Sarkozy. Their father may take up residence in the Elysee very soon.

There's something particularly French about this political partnership between a former non-married couple in which both partners were candidates to the presidency, as well as rivals in the same presidential race. Indeed, it's hard to imagine seeing this kind of spectacle elsewhere. In Great Britain, marriage and the picture of a united and happy family are prerequisites for political success. And in the United States, where marital hypocrisy is established as a system? Such a peculiar partnership would be unthinkable.

But in France, neither Royal nor Hollande believed their parental status could be seen as a liability for their presidential ambitions. As long as leaders meet a basic level of moral decency, their personal lives attract neither praise nor criticism. Being a good husband or a good father, qualities put forward by both Tony Blair and David Cameron in the United Kingdom, wouldn't bring any political benefit in France. Recently, France's incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, actually addressed his failure at keeping his now ex-wife Cecilia by his side during the 2007 campaign.

Not trying to be role models

In France, matters of the heart – and the body – are either a secret or a show. They only become a scandal when they cross the implicit limits of a mostly liberal code. In France's presidential runoff, both candidates have been wounded by love, and then cured – by the likes of Valerie and Carla. They aren't trying to be role models. Instead, they are building step by step life solutions that fit their needs – all under the watchful gaze of the French public.

If François Hollande becomes president, First Lady Valerie won't have the same last name. Another French exception. Her three children from a previous marriage will be part of the family dinners at the Elysee palace, along with Hollande's four with Royal.

Likewise, when Sarkozy was sworn in back in 2007, what the public saw was a modern family. His two sons from his first marriage were standing side-by-side with the two daughters Cecilia has from her marriage. The son they had together, Louis, stood with Cecilia. In 2012, Louis is now playing with Carla Bruni's son from a previous marriage and with the baby girl she had with Sarkozy.

France's presidential clan is no longer afraid to show that it's just like any other family: complicated, with wounds to heal, joy to share, and always struggling to make things work better.

Read more from Le Temps in French

Photo - Marie-Lan Nguyen / Pete Souza

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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