When former French president Francois Mitterrand died in 1996, mourners included his mistress and the daughter he fathered out of wedlock. And nobody raised an eyebrow.

Now current President Francois Hollande is caught having it off with an actress behind his partner’s back — and national polls indicate the public doesn’t care. Almost 80% believe it’s a personal matter; some 84% said their opinion of the leader hadn’t changed.

It’s a question of character, critics will argue, and there’s plenty to that. If you’re cheating on the missus, perhaps you’re just as likely to cheat on the nation. But in a European public sphere more sophisticated than we’re used to, politicians seem to be judged on policy first — and personality second.

Hollande might be chucked out because of his haphazard handling of the economy, but not because he’s a love rat.

Which is probably the way it should be.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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