Royal concedes bitter defeat in La Rochelle

Ségolène Royal, the 2007 presidential runner-up and former partner of President François Hollande, has been defeated by a Socialist dissident who was controversially backed by France's new first lady earlier this week.


AFP - Segolene Royal crashed out of France’s parliamentary election on Sunday after a bitter battle with a left-wing rebel backed by the woman who replaced her as partner of Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Royal, Hollande’s companion for 25 years and mother of his four children, announced her own defeat before official results were released, calling the outcome a “betrayal” of the voters. She was the Socialist presidential candidate in 2007, losing to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.

Royal was defeated in the western city of La Rochelle by Olivier Falorni, who was expelled from the Socialist Party for defying her nomination but says he remains loyal to the president.

“I respect her disappointment,” Falorni told reporters.

Royal, who had hoped to become the speaker of parliament, suffered the double humiliation of losing to a dissident left-winger who not only refused to step aside but won public support in a Tweet from First Lady Valerie Trierweiler.

Asked whether Trierweiler’s message had contributed to her defeat, Royal told France 2 television: “It certainly did not help, to put it mildly.” She quoted writer Victor Hugo as saying: “Traitors always pay for their treachery in the end.”

Royal’s failure to win a parliamentary seat was the latest of several political and personal sebacks for the 58-year-old after an illustrious career.

The former environment minister beat ex-partner Hollande to the starting blocks in the 2007 presidential race, winning the Socialist nomination over veterans Laurent Fabius and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but was out-fought and out-debated by Sarkozy.

Weeks later, she announced her separation from Hollande, making public the break-up of France’s political dream couple, who met in the late 1970s at the elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration civil service college.

In 2011, Royal competed in the Socialist primary contest, shedding tears when she finished a distant fourth as Hollande was sent into a battle that he ultimately won.

Her defeat leaves Hollande with a thorny problem. Political analysts say the president will need to find a face-saving role for his former partner and reassert his own political authority, which appeared undermined by Trierweiler’s Tweet.

“My political combat continues,” said Royal.


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