Presidential Divorce?

Maybe we can turn this resuscitated weblog into an international scandal-sheet! You heard it here first!

What did you hear? That the marriage between the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Cécilia is on the rocks. Interestingly, it’s the foreign press, not the French, that is reporting that all that is lacking in the presidential couple’s break-up is the formal announcement. First of all, it was apparently American journalists (which ones or who they write for, however, are not specified) who picked up on remarks Nicolas Sarkozy made on 30 September to Georgian President Saakashvili – they were attending the France-Georgia match of the rugby world cup tournament – to the effect that he could easily see himself as a bachelor again in the near future. And the Nouvel Observateur reports that the Tribune de Genève maintains that the Sarkozys are essentially already separated. For one thing, the Sarkozy’s had been discussing all summer for the benefit of the press their detailed plans of finally moving into the presidential (Elysée) palace come September – yet September has come and gone, and nothing has happened. Then there was the recent state visit to Bulgaria, also noteworthy for Cécilia’s absence – and under normal circumstances she would have been very glad to go to Bulgaria, where authorities wanted to fête her there in grand style in thanks for the very personal role she played earlier this year in securing the release of five Bulgarian nurses, accused of infecting children in their care with AIDS, from their Libyan jail.

Then there is the Danish press that has latched on to this story (as in the leading daily Politiken: French presidential pair will divorce , and also the German: Spiegel Online, Waiting for the End, which complains in its lead that things are so bad that the French press these days are much more interested in their president’s private life than in his policies.

Interested – but not doing much reporting about it. (To be fair, I should mention here the excellent run-down of clues that things are not happy at the Sarkozy ranch provided by Hervé Algalarrondo of the Nouvel Observateur: Cécilia: the invisible woman.) Can we perhaps conclude that, if the foreign press is all over the story while the domestic – i.e. those who you would expect to really know what’s what – are keeping off, that in reality there is nothing to it? No, and the Tribune de Genève is ready to step in and explain (quoted, however, in the Nouvel Observateur): “the press bosses are all friends of the president. If information is not official, then it doesn’t exist . . . . many newspapers are just waiting for permission from the Elysée” to finally allow themselves to write that the presidential couple has separated. This by the way also explains the Nouvel Observateur’s prominent role (by comparison) in what is being written in the French press: it’s well-known that that magazine actively supported Sarkozy’s presidential election rival Ségolène Royale during the French presidential election campaign last spring, and so clearly is a bit less cowed by any presidential intimidation.

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