Could scandal be the making of French President Francois Hollande?

In this composite image a comparison has been made between Francois Hollande (L) and Julie Gayet. Credit: Getty Images
In this composite image a comparison has been made between Francois Hollande (L) and Julie Gayet.
Credit: Getty Images

With a 15 perfect approval rating, French President Francois Hollande was in crisis before allegations of an extra-marital tryst with actress Julie Gayet emerged. His refusal to deny the affair, and the hospitalisation of his partner Valerie Trierweiler, threatens to destroy what remains of his reputation.

But the embattled leader may be able to staunch the bleeding. Previous French presidents Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac were able to laugh off infidelities with indulgence of the media.

“Hollande would be adhering to a time-honored French tradition of official mistresses,” wrote Professor Matthew Fraser, politics and media specialist at Sciences Po Paris.

Culturally, France has always been less interested in politicians’ love lives than in the UK or US. This has been reflected in a cross-party refusal to attack Hollande, while a magazine opinion poll showed 77 percent considered the subject a ‘private matter’.

The scandal could even provide some respite.

“Hollande may benefit from changing the subject away from bad news on the economy,” says Dr. James Stanyer of Loughborough University, author of “Intimate Politics” and a study comparing sexual attitudes in different countries. “He could be seen as more of a personality and get more attention for that.”

Political scientists have shown that sex scandals are traditionally less damaging than other types. Texas Tech University found that corruption typically costs almost twice as many votes as sex, with the gap even higher for left-wing candidates. Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi are among the leaders to sail through sleaze affairs.

Hollande may also benefit from his partner being even less popular, partly through a perception that Trierweiler exploits her position despite not being officially the First Lady, and allegations that she may also have been unfaithful. Despite her apparent victimhood, a French news agency found over 89 percent would like Hollande to end the relationship – so that a change of partner would be a populist move.

How the President reacts will be critical. Cases of  “infidelity plus,” where an affair is compounded by another offense, such as dishonesty or assault – as in the recent case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn – would be viewed more harshly.

“The only good tactic is honesty,” says Stanyer. “If he tells the truth there is a good chance this will blow over, and he could emerge stronger.”

Should Hollande survive, he will be grateful to the unique tolerance of French society. But he will have learned that scrutiny is growing, and would be advised to keep secrets better.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.