Hollande’s Announcement of Split to Move Focus to Economy

Francois Hollande’s announcement that he has split from partner Valerie Trierweiler should end weeks of discussion about the French president’s private life and turn attention back to the economy, politicians said.

“It was a necessary clarification,” France’s Labor Minister Michel Sapin said on Itele television. “It’s done.”

Hollande on Jan. 25 issued a statement through Agence France-Presse saying his “shared life” with journalist Trierweiler had ended. The former couple are on good terms, AFP reported, citing people close to Trierweiler.

Two weeks ago, celebrity magazine Closer ran a photo spread purportedly showing Hollande, 59, arriving at an apartment near his office to see actress Julie Gayet, 41. Trierweiler, 48, was hospitalized for eight days following the report, while Hollande said he would clarify whether she was still the first lady before a Feb. 11 state visit to the U.S.

While his approval rating has gained since news of the alleged affair broke, Hollande is under pressure to deliver on promises to revive an economy that has barely grown in the past two years, with jobless claims rising to a record. Thousands of demonstrators marched yesterday in Paris to protest against his policies.

Politicians from Hollande’s Socialist Party as well as opposition party UMP said the focus on Hollande’s private life had gone too far and conversations should now shift back to the economy.

Unemployment, Deficit

“We can finally get back to talking about what French people really care about: unemployment, deficit, debt, lack of growth,” Thierry Mariani, a UMP lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

While Moody’s Investors Service affirmed France’s Aa1 credit rating, the ratings company maintained its negative outlook based on the “continued reduction in the competitiveness” of the economy. Unemployment data will show a stabilization in 2013, the labor minister said yesterday, before figures for December are announced today.

Having failed to stem an increase in unemployment last year, Hollande is pledging more cuts in public spending and a reduction in payroll taxes to bolster business confidence and hiring, as part of what he has called a “responsibility pact.”

“We’re finally going to talk about something else,” Thierry Mandon, a spokesman for the Socialist Party at the National Assembly, said on BFMTV television. “We can now focus on making the responsibility pact a success.”

First Lady

The split has also prompted debates on the role of the first lady in France.

About 54 percent of people polled by BVA for Le Parisien said the president’s partner should have no official role and get no budget, according to results published Jan. 24.

“In today’s world, there is no such thing anymore as the first lady’s role in France,” Labor Minister Sapin said.

Traveling to India, Trierweiler participated in an event organized by the charity Action Contre La Faim. She is taking part in a personal capacity. Le Parisien reported that Trierweiler moved back into the Paris apartment the couple shared before Hollande won the presidency in 2012.

“I’ve come to India three times: the first as a journalist, the second as a first lady. Today, just call it what you want,” Trierweiler said today in a press conference in Mumbai. Asked what she would do next in her life, Hollande’s ex-partner said “I’ll have time to think about it, don’t worry for me.”

Trierweiler will remain a journalist at Paris Match magazine. She pledged to continue her activities with Action Contre La Faim.

Hollande will make his first public appearance after the split when he visits Turkey today.

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