world A sex video of a Macron collaborator shakes the...

A sex video of a Macron collaborator shakes the debate on the private life of politicians in France | International


The former LREM candidate for mayor of Paris, Benjamin Griveaux, this Friday at the headquarters of the formation, in Paris. On video, Griveaux announces his retirement. AFP | ATLAS

A new type of policy has broken into a storm in France. The country is not used to a politician falling for a sexual video, as happened on Friday when Benjamin Griveaux, a man of confidence of President Emmanuel Macron, announced that he was abandoning the campaign for mayor of Paris. A dark Russian artist exiled in France and advised by a lawyer from Julian Assange claimed to have disseminated the images. The resignation of Griveaux is a blow to the strategy of the Macron party before the municipal of March. And it awakens the ghost of an Americanization of public life.

The French were proud that in France, unlike in the United States, the separation between private and public life of politicians was clear and that here it was unimaginable that a consensual act between two adults could ruin a candidate’s career. Yes, presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn fell for accusations of sexual assault, but it was in New York that he was running the International Monetary Fund. And, although the sentimental tribulations of presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande entertained the country for much of their mandates, the idea of ​​a politician shot down by a sex video seemed exotic. No longer.

“I do not want to expose ourselves further, to my family and to me, when all the blows are allowed. This goes too far, ”he told France Presse Griveaux, who has reported being a victim of“ ignoble attacks. ” “This decision costs me, but my priorities are clear. First is my family, ”added the 42-year-old politician.

The scene – the contrite look, the mention of the family, the immediate resignation – seemed more like a congressman from New York or an Idaho senator than from a municipal candidate and French deputy politically raised in Strauss-Kahn’s surroundings and ally Macron since in 2016 he decided to launch the improbable conquest of the Elysium palace. The images and messages with a woman who was not his wife – recorded in 2018, when the Government was a spokesman – began circulating on Thursday afternoon. The task of campaigning for a month with this burden seemed unsustainable: he and his party, La República en Marcha (LREM), which day by day sees how the possibility of an honorable result in the municipal of 15 and 22 moves away of March.

The condemnation of the leak was almost unanimous in the political class. With a common subtext: France is not the United States, and the preservation of democracy is at stake in the protection of privacy.

“I call respect for the private life of people and families too,” reacted the mayor of Paris, the socialist Anne Hidalgo. “It is not worthy of the democratic debate we could have,” he lamented in reference to the leak of private images of his rival in the campaign.

“Insumisos, do not participate in any way in the settling of accounts that Benjamin Griveaux is the object of”, the leader of La Francia Insumisa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, habitually ruthless with Macron and his collaborators, urged in a message on the Twitter social network. “The publication of intimate images to destroy the adversary is odious. Let us reject the voyeur shipwreck of public life in the country. No, all hits are not allowed, ”he added.

The National Regrouping of Marine Le Pen was less explicit in its support for Griveaux. But in the general tone of the rest of the games it seemed as if a red line had been crossed. As if a virus outside the native customs had contaminated the customs of the hexagon.

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In the Griveaux case, the fear of americanization with a more recent one: that of the Russification. During the campaign that brought Macron to power, in 2017, there was already a massive theft of emails in his party. Suspicions pointed to Moscow. Despite the progressive rapprochement between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the hypothesis of a Russian interference that disrupts an electoral process, until influencing the outcome, has not disappeared.

Russian interference

In the end, Russian interference has occurred, but in an unexpected way. Piotr Pavlenski, 35, is a Russian artist, activist and provocateur. One of its specialties is self-mutilation. Once he sewed his lips. Another nailed the scrotum in the Red Square. The earlobe was also cut in protest of the treatment in psychiatric centers of dissidents opposed to Putin. In 2017 he obtained political asylum in France. In 2019 he was arrested for setting fire to the headquarters of the Bank of France in the Place de la Bastille. The police were looking for him for causing a brawl at an end of the year party, according to the newspaper Mediapart.

In statements to the newspaper LiberationPavlenski said his goal was to denounce what he considers the “hypocrisy” of politicians who, in public, defend “family values” and in private “do the opposite.”

Another plot twist: the role of far-left lawyer Juan Branco, an activist close to the Mélenchon party and the movement of the yellow vests and lawyer for Assange, the architect of Wikileaks, now detained in the United Kingdom. Branco explained to the weekly Le point that Pavlenski had consulted before spreading the messages. “I understood that, for him, it was a political act. In the same way that he opposed the Putin regime, he was willing to do anything to oppose the Macron regime, whom he considers equally repressive, ”he said. Beyond the moral qualifications, the success of his first blow is undoubted.

The municipal ones get complicated

The resignation of Benjamin Griveaux, a candidate until Friday for mayor of Paris, further complicates the Emmanuel Macron party in the municipal elections of March 15 and 22. The Republic on the move (LREM) is left without a candidate in the key square, although the possibility of obtaining an honorable result already seemed difficult even before Griveaux’s sex video circulated and he left. The divisions of LREM, the null charism of the candidate and the disenchantment with the president of the Republic had turned the capital into an increasingly difficult goal.

Stanislas Guérini, general delegate of the Macron party, praised Griveaux for “placing the collective above his person” and announced the opening of a reflection to continue the campaign in which the current mayor, the socialist Anne Hidalgo, part as favorite. Among the names that sound, is the current Minister of Equality, Marlène Schiappa, and the Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn.

Griveaux, who was courting the conservative vote in the campaign, faced an unforeseen obstacle: the alternative candidacy of another LREM deputy, the mathematician Cédric Villani. After months of postponing a decision, and pressuring Villani to resign his candidacy, Macron finished at the end of January in favor of his friend Griveaux and, after disobeying the leader, Villani ended up leaving the party.

At that time the damage to the macronistas was done: the division of the vote between the official Griveaux and the dissident Villani consolidated Hidalgo’s options. And he turned away the dream of the macronistas to conquer the most precious jewel: the capital of France, which also turns out to be a bastion of LREM. Macron had won there easily in all the elections in which he or his party have run since the 2017 presidential elections. Griveaux’s march raises more doubts about the presidential party’s strategy in these elections, not just in the capital. In Paris, his candidacy was in third position in the most recent polls, with a 16% expectation of vote, behind the conservative Rachida Dati, with 20%, and the socialist Hidalgo with 23%.

Griveaux is Macron’s second close collaborator to fall out of favor. The first was Alexandre Benalla, his trusted bodyguard, set aside in 2018 after a video was released in which he assaulted protesters on May 1.



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