While the race for the next mayor of Paris may not usually be the type of news to make international headlines, the events leading to the end of Benjamin Griveaux’s campaign have raised questions about the role a politician’s private life should play in campaigning, as well as repeated issues over Russian interference on European politics.
Whilst not a frontrunner for the mayoral seat, Benjamin Griveaux was the candidate most associated with incumbent French President, Emmanuel Macron. Petr Pavlensky, a Russian protest artist, posted a video online supposedly featuring Griveaux in a compromising position. Pavlensky admitted to posting the video, arguing that he was exposing hypocrisy.
In a rare show of unity during the race, prominent figures from across the French political spectrum issued individual condemnations of the leak. Incumbent Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, asked for privacy to be respected; Socialist politician,Jean-Luc Melenchon, called the attack, ‘odious’; while Far-Right leader, Marine Le Pen, suggested that Griveaux should not have felt compelled to withdraw from the race.
In a statement issued from Griveaux’s office, another condemnation of the leaks was issued, “My family doesn’t deserve this. I’m not prepared to expose my family and myself any more when all these attacks are allowed. This goes too far”.
Pavlensky himself had already gained a public profile, after nailing his scrotum to the Red Square in Moscow. He would go on to flee Russia and seek asylum in France after sexual assault charges Pavlensy said were politically motivated.
He told the French press that Griveaux was targeted for running a ‘hypocritical’ campaign based on family values, and that he was only the first politician to be targeted.
While scrutiny on the private lives of politicians may seem slightly more accepted in the UK and USA, France has a strong tradition of separating the personal and political, in an attempt to avoid a more American style of spectacle politics, explaining the condemnation of the leak from across the political spectrum.
Despite Pavlensky’s exile status from Russia, commentators have argued that the video was intended to humiliate President Macron due to his fiery rhetoric against Russian interference in the West.