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Sarkozy to Blame For Royal's Break-in?

Jul 24, 2008
This is a political piece that by its very definition can only be filed under "Strange" on any website.

It concerns last year's defeated candidate in the French presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, and her claims that she is paying the price for comments she made recently about the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

On June 27 there was a break-in at Royal's ground floor apartment in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt - the third time in less than two years.

According to reports Royal returned to her home late in the evening accompanied by her bodyguard to discover that she couldn't get her key to fit in the door. The police were called and they eventually managed to force their way in, at which point Royal was faced with an apartment described as being in "complete disarray".

Investigations have since revealed that although there was indeed a forced entry and the place had been ransacked, nothing seemed to have been taken and nobody had tried to gain access to computer files. Oddly enough though the clothes of one of Royal's daughters had been removed from the wardrobe and neatly set out on her bed.

The shutters to the apartment hadn't been closed and the alarm not turned on. So a simple case of breaking and entering, case closed.

And so it would have remained.

Until that is.......Royal tried to make a connection between the forced entry and Sarkozy!

In a television interview earlier this week she suggested the break-in was in some way linked to her recent criticism of what she termed "the Sarkozy clan's grip on France".

And she followed up those comments on national radio this morning by admitting that although she had no proof of a link, she found it a "strange coincidence" that the break-in had occured at a "very politically sensitive time."

Now you're probably thinking this is just one woman's bitter rant against a system which denied her the chance of becoming this country's first female president. And you wouldn't be alone in making that particular assumption.

Even the normally restrained and mild-mannered prime minister, François Fillion, has suggested that Royal is "losing her self control." Other members of the governing Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) have been a little less charitable in suggesting that she has "blown a fuse" or "will stop at nothing to get attention".

As far as many are concerned it's much ado about nothing and an early summer media frenzy madness.

But let's just take a step back for a moment and look under what circumstances Royal is making the link - as far fetched as it might be.

She's one of two main candidates to take over the running of the Sociliast party when it meets to elect a new leader in the autumn - the other one is the current mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë.

Royal wants to grab the party very much by the neck, get rid of all the old guard or so-called "elephants" who've long dominated its hierarchy and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century and closer to the Centre.

The autumn vote could well decide not only the future of the party but also who'll be its challenger in the 2012 presidential election. Royal has said on more than one occasion that she wants to be both.

She's also probably the only opposition politician who has regularly made repeated attacks on Sarkozy's policies. And let's not forget that although she lost in last year's election, she still garnered almost 47 per cent of the vote - that's over 16 million people.

Indeed recent polls (for what they're worth) show that if voters could vote again now, the tables would be turned and it would be Royal sitting in the Elysée palace rather than Sarkozy.

And even though she's by no means popular with those Socialist party elephants - she still retains a level of support among activists with more around 33 per cent saying that she would be the best choice as candidate in 2012.

So Sarkozy sees her perhaps as the biggest potential threat to a possible second term if he really is looking so far ahead - and let's face it he is a politician, so why shouldn't he? And the old guard in the Socialist party don't particularly want her upsetting the apple cart and denying their preferred "man for the job" - Delanoë.

And how does she make that leap to a "politically sensitive" time?

Well quite simply, in the long-drawn out process up to the autumn vote each leading candidate is handing in a set of personal proposals as to their "vision" of the party's future direction.

The break-in to the apartment occurred on the day before Royal was to hand in hers.

So for her that's enough to draw some kind link between "coincidence," "political sensitivity" and Sarkozy.

All that having been said, the story does smack of the ridiculous as far as much of the media in France is concerned - although that hasn't stopped it either from reporting on the story or interviewing her.

No word yet of course - nor is there likely to be - from Sarkozy, who is in Strasbourg outlining to the European Parliament his - whoops sorry - France's plans for the next six months at the helm of the European Union.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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