Sarkozy split, the new rupture with old politics

18th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

18 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - The French people have been mesmerized to see the marriage of President Nicolas Sarkozy collapse before them.

18 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - The French people have been mesmerized to see the marriage of President Nicolas Sarkozy collapse before them.

But the story of Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy's separation by "mutual consent" is also a new chapter in the modernisation of French politics.

The French public is not surprised at the split but at the access they have been given to it.

Sarkozy promised to be a modernizing president and bring in a "rupture" with old politics and this personal trauma is a new example.

He was the first divorced person to become France's head of state. He was the first president to acknowledge difficulties in his marriage and now he will be the first to separate from his wife while in office.

Of the 23 French presidents since 1848, all have been men and none have been separated, let alone divorced, at least as far as the public was concerned.

Napoleon's love conquests may have been well known, but the personal lives of modern day political leaders have been strictly off limits. Draconian privacy laws have added an extra layer of protection to any extra-marital affairs.

Presidential peccadillos normally only become public after death.

The barriers started coming down with Francois Mitterrand, the socialist president from 1981 to 1995, who concealed a daughter born out of wedlock.

When the existence of Mazarine Pingeot finally emerged in the press in 1994, he made no attempt to deny it or the fact that his adopted family lived in an apartment in his official residence, the Elysee Palace.

In January 1996 the young woman, now aged 32, attended Mitterrand's funeral along her mother and the president's widow, Daniele Mitterrand.

Felix Faure, who was president from 1895 until his death in 1899, is today remembered mainly for the circumstances of his death. His mistress during the last two years of his life was one Marguerite Steinheil, who was a frequent visitor to the official residence.

On February 16, 1899, shortly after Steinheil visited the president, Faure was found unconscious and died soon after. The probable cause of the stroke that killed him has been a subject of ribald jokes ever since.

Gaston Doumergue, the head of state from 1924 to 1931, has the distinction of being the only French president who was single when he came to power.

Two weeks before the end of his term, at the age of 67, Doumergue married his longtime companion, Jeanne Graves, who was herself divorced and a mother.

The French have said little about the fact that Sarkozy entered the Elysee Palace as a divorcee.

Sarkozy's first marriage, in 1982, was to Marie-Dominique Culioli, the daughter of a pharmacist from Corsica.

The couple had two sons but divorced in 1995. Sarkozy was then mayor of the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly, already a rising political star and he had already met Cecilia. He officiated at her wedding to television presenter Jacques Martin and reportedly vowed then that he would make Cecilia his.

The couple married on October 23, 1996; Cecilia had two daughters from her first marriage. The couple had one child together, Louis, born in 1997.


Subject: French news

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