President Francois Hollande's girlfriend set the French political establishment aghast Tuesday with a tweet seen as a dig against his ex-wife.
The tweet of support to Olivier Falorni, a politician in western France, was signed by Valerie Trierweiler and went viral on the Internet and dominated news shows.
It was seen as a dig at Segolene Royal, the mother of Hollande's four children. Royal, also a former Socialist presidential candidate, is running against Falorni in the Charente-Maritime region in Sunday's parliamentary elections final round.
The tweet starts: "Have courage, Olivier Falorni." But it is easily interpreted as a not-so-veiled dig at Royal.
The Socialist Party recently banished Falorni for failing to step aside in favor of Royal, so he is running as a dissident candidate. After last Sunday's first-round vote, Royal holds a narrow lead over Falorni.
Trierweiler, a journalist and avid tweeter, has made no secret of her determination to retain her independence, or of her discomfort with the image and chores of a first lady.
Her employer, Paris-Match, barred her from working as a political reporter after the May 6 election of Hollande, although it has allowed her to stay on as a book reviewer. Her first review, published last week, was of a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of ex-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and began: "Look at that! A journalist first lady isn't a novelty."
Television news coverage Tuesday was dominated by the tweet, along with speculation about why Trierweiler would make such a bold foray into the political arena that risks bringing discredit to Hollande _ and is indirectly aimed at the woman who for decades was his companion.
"Either she is blinded by jealousy ... or it's a well-calculated political coup" to puncture Royal's chances, ventured the chief political analyst for BFM TV, Olivier Mazerolle.
The relationship between the two women is known to be tense, fuelling a variety of explanations as to why she sent the tweet.
One such explanation suggested that Trierweiler is fearful of Royal again getting close to Hollande.
Royal has said that if she wins in Sunday's parliamentary elections she would then seek the role of speaker of the National Assembly, the lower house, guaranteeing almost daily contact with the president, and father of her four children.