A new setback complicates the French president’s political winter, Emmanuel Macron. Benjamin Griveaux, candidate of his party, The Republic on the Move (LREM), in the municipal elections of Paris and a member of Macron’s closest circle since he launched the 2016 presidential race, on Friday announced his departure from the race for the mayor of the French capital. An unconfirmed sex video, in which apparently Griveaux himself appears, is the trigger for a crisis that dynamites the already fragile strategy of the president for municipal elections.
“I don’t want to expose my family and me even more, when all blows are allowed. This goes too far, “Griveaux told the France Presse agency, to which he denounced having been the victim of” ignoble attacks “.” This decision costs me a lot, but my priorities are clear. First, my family”He added.
The condemnation of the leak was unanimous in the political class. “I also call for respect for the private lives of people and families too”, reacted the mayor of Paris, the socialist Anne Hidalgo. “It is not worthy of the democratic debate that we could have,” he lamented, referring to the leak of private images of his rival in the campaign. “Insubmissives, do not participate in any way in the reckoning that Benjamin Griveaux is targeting”, insisted the leader of the party France Insubmissa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in a message on the social network Twitter. “Publishing intimate images to destroy an opponent is hateful. We reject the voyeuristic wreck of public life in the country. No, not all blows are allowed, ”he added.
Stanislas Guérini, general delegate of LREM, praised Griveaux for “putting the collective above you” and announced the opening a reflection to continue the campaign. Among the names that emerge are the current Minister of Equality, Marlène Schiappa, and the Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn.
Griveaux, 42, a deputy for The Republic in March and a former government spokesman, was the party’s candidate in Paris for the municipal elections, scheduled for March 15 and 22. Graduated from the liberal wing of the Socialist Party and former collaborator of Dominique Strauss-Kahn –The presidential candidate who fell out of favor when he was reported for sexual assault at a hotel in New York in 2011– he had been courting the Parisian conservative vote in the campaign.
Griveaux also faced an unforeseen obstacle: the alternative candidacy in Paris of another member of the LREM, the mathematician Cédric Villani. Macron took a position in late January in favor of his friend Griveaux and, after disobeying the leader, Villani was eventually expelled from the party.
The damage was done for the Macronists: the division of votes between the governor Griveaux and the dissident Villani consolidated Hidalgo as a favorite. And it removed the dream of the Macronists to win the most precious jewel in these elections: the capital of France which, after all, is a bastion of LREM. Macron won in Paris handily in all the elections he or his party has run since 2017. Griveaux’s departure raises even more doubts about the presidential party’s strategy in these elections. His candidacy occupied the third position in the most recent polls, with the expectation of obtaining 16% of the votes, behind the conservative Rachida Dati, with 20%, and the socialist Hidalgo, with 23%.
Rumors about private video started circulating on Thursday afternoon, with the momentum in social networks, among others, of deputy Joachim Son-Forget, expelled a few months ago from the LREM for his repeated outings of tone and self-proclaimed this week, in a television program of great audience, candidate for the presidential elections of 2022.
Le Monde explains that the images and other messages released were sent in May 2018, when Grivaux was a government spokesman, and that the recipient was a woman who was not his wife. “They were dialogues among adults who were in agreement. Nothing illegal, ”says a source close to the politician.
Piotr Pavlenski, a Russian artist refugee in France and sentenced in 2019 to a year in prison for setting fire to a Bank of France headquarters, took over the video. In statements to the newspaper Libération, he stated that his objective was to denounce what he considers “hypocrisy” of politicians who publicly defend “family values” and, in particular, “do the opposite”. Juan Branco, an activist close to yellow vests and lawyer for Julian Assange, explained the Le Point that Pavlenski had consulted him before releasing the messages. “I understood that, for him, it was a political act,” he said.
Macron overcame one of the longest strikes in recent history of France and the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level since 2008. But the economy continues to grow at a slow pace – in the fourth quarter of 2019 it contracted – and, although the controversial pension reform is in the National Assembly, controlled by LREM, the clash is not over. In recent weeks, the head of state has faced several setbacks, from adverse decisions by the State Council to the discontent of part of the parliamentary group.
In the case of Griveaux, the feeling of being invulnerable on the part of French elites is mixed with a debate about the privacy of electronic communications and the ability to destroy careers by leaks. Griveaux is Macron’s second close collaborator to fall from grace. The first was Alexandre Benalla, his trusted bodyguard, removed in 2018, after the release of a video in which he attacked protesters during the 1st of May. Benalla and Son-Forget have been showing their political affinity in public for a few days.