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In France, the boudoir's not far from corridors of power, best seller says

In France, the boudoir's not far from corridors of power, best seller says

King Dagobert, the last of the Merovingean line, helped set the tone, skillfully balancing a penchant for debauchery with his generosity to powerful clerics. Later French monarchs with an array of courtesans made infidelity a royal ritual.
Fourteen centuries after Dagobert, French politicians still move seamlessly between amorous escapades and their more prosaic duties to the French people, keeping alive a sizzling tradition of linking the boudoir to the corridors of power.
This, at least, is the portrait painted by France's latest best-seller, "Sexus Politicus," an under-the-sheets study of French politics that comes as the country is gearing up for presidential elections next spring.
The well-documented book by two respected journalists reflects the growing appetite of the French _ and French media _ for an inside look at their leaders. No longer does the spotlight stop at politicians' bedroom doors.
Probing power as an aphrodisiac, "Sexus Politicus" breaks the code of silence that has long cloaked affairs of the heart when they mix with affairs of state.
Politicians themselves are partly to blame, experts say: Increasingly appearing on magazine covers and TV variety shows, public figures have contributed to the erosion of their privacy.
"They win points for proximity, sympathy, authenticity, but you sort of feel that this phenomenon has gotten away from them," said Frederic Dabi, public opinion director of the IFOP polling firm.
"There has been a real evolution."
In "Sexus Politicus," authors Christophe Dubois and Christophe Deloire argue that the heady mix of sex and power has long been a French fact of life, even if little talked about. French presidents have not been immune: Felix Faure died in the arms of his half-nude mistress in 1899, and the late Francois Mitterrand, an inveterate lady's man, announced in 1994 that he had a daughter, Mazarine, out of wedlock. His two families, official and unofficial, were present for his funeral in 1996.
Of all post-World War II French leaders, only Gen. Charles de Gaulle maintained a military discipline over his sex life, the book says.
Dubois, in an interview, said that in the psyche of French male politicians, attracting voters is akin to attracting members of the opposite sex. "There is this dimension of seducing women. To conquer the electoral body is also to conquer the body of the electorate," he said.
He argues that the macho model of French politics has hampered the emergence of women politicians. France has one of the European Union's lowest rates of female participation in parliament. But the male-heavy picture may be changing: the leading Socialist candidate to replace President Jacques Chirac next year is a woman, Segolene Royal.
That she has never married the father of her four children, Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande, is not an issue in France.
"We are far from what happens in the United States," said Dabi, referring to the furor over Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky or Gary Hart's dalliance that two decades ago destroyed his Democratic presidential aspirations.
For many French, interest in politicians' private lives goes no further than titillation. A January poll by the Sofres firm found that only 17 percent of voters would be dissuaded from voting for a candidate because of an extramarital affair.
Still, Jean-Luc Parodi, a political analyst, said there is a growing demand for accountability by public officials.
"A Mitterrand of today could never keep the secret of his hidden daughter for so long," he said, noting that she and her mother were at one point lodged at a state residence.
Among primary sources for "Sexus Politicus" were staff at the presidential Elysee Palace, chauffeurs, and journalists _ who figure large among those getting the amorous attentions of the powerful in France.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the lead presidential hopeful on the right, does not escape attention. The book documents his reported tryst with a journalist, and wife Cecilia's New York escapade last year with her own paramour _ made public in a photo scoop on the cover of Paris Match, the mass circulation news and gossip magazine.
The couple has since reunited _ recently displaying their rekindled relationship in a new Paris Match photo spread. That did not spare executive editor Alain Genestar, who was sacked in what the staff claimed was a reprisal for the Cecilia scoop. Paris-Match is owned by Hachette Filipacchi Medias, headed by Arnaud Lagardere _ Sarkozy's friend.
Dubois said he has received no complaints, or threats of legal action, from politicians cited in "Sexus Politicus," which knocked Sarkozy's own book "Temoignage" (Testimonial) off the top of the best-seller list.


Updated : 2021-05-09 19:29 GMT+08:00