A singer, a journalist, a housewife or a plasterer’s son: who will move into the Elysée Palace in May, and can candidates count on their partners to help them get there? FRANCE 24 takes a look at who might be France’s next first lady… or gentleman.
When his second wife, Cécilia Attias, left him in October 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French president to live in the Elysée Palace without a first lady. While it didn’t take long for him to find a suitable replacement – he was married to Carla Bruni just four months later – his capricious love life saw his approval ratings plunge.
Over 75% of French respondents claimed in an ELLE survey published last week that a candidate’s partner had no bearing on their choice of president. But in a separate survey carried out the same week and published in Paris Match magazine on Thursday, respondents were quick to choose their “favourite presidential couple” out of the four most likely to move into (or remain in) the Elysée Palace in May.
Some 40% of respondents chose François Hollande and partner Valérie Trierweiler as their preferred presidential couple. Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy managed second place with 26%, but they were closely followed by François Bayrou and his wife of 40 years, Elisabeth, who is almost never seen in public, with 19%. Not far behind at 15%, Marine Le Pen and her political soul mate, Louis Aliot.
FRANCE 24 takes a look at the leading candidates’ partners
Trierweiler is a well-known political journalist in France: she has worked for weekly magazine Paris Match since 1989, and TV channel Direct 8 since 2005. Twice divorced with three children, the 47-year-old from west France has been in a relationship with Socialist candidate François Hollande since 2006, but they only publicly acknowledged their relationship in 2010.
As far as the French electorate was concerned, Hollande was still with his former partner and fellow Socialist Ségolène Royal until mid-2007, when Royal faced off against Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of the presidential election. The couple, who have four children together, said that they chose not to disclose their break-up until after the election, which Royal lost. In reality, Hollande had already begun a relationship with Trierweiler in 2006.
Today, Trierweiler is an active member of Hollande’s PR team, often accompanying him to election-related events. She even has her own office at his campaign headquarters and is known to re-tweet Hollande. Since he entered into the presidential race, she gave up a political column with Paris Match to avoid conflict of interest.
Questioned about her personality by Gala magazine in March, she said “I have a strong character, I’m frank and I don’t like things to go unsaid. People think me cold, but for me it’s about keeping my distance.” She told Paris Match in March that she is attracted to Hollande’s “sense of humour and intelligence”.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy reached fame long before her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy. An international supermodel in the 1990s, 44-year-old Italian-born Bruni then moved on to pop singing, before marrying newly-elected President Sarkozy in February 2008.
Bruni is well known in France for having a string of high profile affairs; her ex-lovers include rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. Not long after marrying Sarkozy she told the press that she found monogamy “terribly boring”. In March 2010 it was rumoured that Bruni was having an affair with French singer Benjamin Biolay. After several days of speculation, Bruni denied the claims. In October the following year, she gave birth to her and Sarkozy’s only child together.
Bruni remained openly left-wing until 2009, when she switched allegiances to support her husband. Today, she says she is 100% behind Sarkozy, and will “help him with his campaign in whichever way he needs”.
Married to centrist MoDem party candidate François Bayrou, Elisabeth Bayrou, or “Babette”, as he calls her, is the only potential consort with the same surname as her partner. Married for more than 40 years, Mrs Bayrou still lives in the small town in south-west France where the couple met and were married in 1971. They are considered the only “traditional” potential first couple. The Bayrous have six grown-up children together and numerous grandchildren.
Mrs Bayrou is media-shy and rarely makes public appearances with her husband. She told the press in 2002 that she disagrees with making politicians’ personal lives public.
She is also openly “anti-Paris”, saying that the capital “doesn’t frighten her but doesn’t suit her either”. The French press has queried whether she would live in the Elysée Palace if her husband were to win the election.
Long-time partner to far-right candidate Marine le Pen, 42-year-old Louis Aliot is a lawyer and amateur rugby player from the south-western city of Toulouse. He is also a regional councillor and the vice-president of Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party. The son of a plasterer, Aliot is said to have been a delinquent at school. He is divorced with two children.
Not only Le Pen’s partner but also her political ally, Aliot has been a staunch far-right supporter since his troubled youth. He enjoys close ties with Le Pen’s father, former FN leader and far-right icon, Jean-Marie le Pen. Aliot and Le Pen junior rarely make romantic appearances in public due to their professional working relationship at the FN.
Le Pen is twice divorced with three children.