Hollande revives political duo with ex
Ms Royal “made me believe for a long time that she was from Martinique,” he said in a speech to local politicians of the French island, where Ms Royal lived for a few years as a child.
The joke prompted loud applause by the audience — and knowing smiles exchanged between the president and his minister.
Ms Royal’s position is “rather incongruous,” said Vanessa Schneider, a Le Monde journalist and author of a book called The Enigmatic Mr Hollande: In the Corridors of the Elysee.
“Clearly, they share rather great complicity. We feel that they have great pleasure to see each other,” Schneider told The Associated Press.
Away from photographers’ eyes, they kiss each other hello on the cheeks, in the French style, and chat a little bit before Cabinet meetings.
Whenever she wants to talk to the president, Ms Royal simply sends him text messages — a privilege shared by only a few close friends of Mr Hollande.
“She has a direct line to him. But at the same time, he’s not under her domination: I attended some situations where she made some demands and he answered no,” Ms Schneider said.
Polls routinely show Ms Royal’s popularity is much higher than Mr Hollande’s.
Political commentators observe that the unpopular Mr Hollande — who may seek a second term in 2017 — may try to use Ms Royal’s leverage in the perspective of the presidential race.
She is especially “very popular in certain categories of the left-wing political base: youth and working-class people,” deputydirector of French poll institute Ifop Frederic Dabi said. “She could be a real asset.” — AP
French President Francois hollande (left) welcomes ecology Minister Segolene royal at the elysee Palace on 18 May.